36 Million Heart-Shaped Boxes of Candy
By Mariah Proctor
Lots of people discount Valentine’s Day as a silly holiday that’s merely an excuse for Hallmark to make an extra buck or two…million. For the record, St. Valentine’s Day was actually established in 496 A.D. by Pope Gelasius I, making this holiday older than not only every commercial card maker you could think of, but also older than Columbus, the printing press and the religion of Islam. Actually V-day, before it was such was an old pagan holiday called Lubricalea where men went around hitting women with goat hides to ensure fertility; really romantic stuff.
When I was little, Valentine’s Day was the best because it was an opportunity to show my creative shops as expressed in the form of the coolest valentine receptacle I could come up with (and cooler every year until people stopped giving out Valentines). I remember one year I built a wishing well to drop valentines down into. I can’t remember if that was before or after I built a dragon in whose belly all of my friends’ pre-printed valentine’s messages were to reside.
You get older though and suddenly where once were sugar sweethearts there are actual sweethearts, and where once was creativity, now there is single’s awareness. Suddenly what once held so much joy and pleasure has become something kind of sad and dully painful. There is amusement in the sense of commiseration that comes when all the single people get together to celebrate Oregon’s birthday (around the same time) and joke about the lonely bitterness that comes with V-day turned OB-day. But in the midst of the smirks and giggles, everyone at those kinds of parties know that we all secretly wish we were on a date or at least had someone to think of, who would think of us.
The Catholic Church has canonized multiple Saint Valentines. One of the legends goes that Emperor Claudius of Rome had armies whom he took away from their families for long periods of time. The resulting group of swoony and homesick men made a slipshod Roman force and so, to prevent this problem, Claudius banned marriage among his troops. Father Valentine, a Roman priest, thought that this ban was unjust and unfair and so continued to marry young lovers to each other in secret. Eventually, Claudius found out and, infuriated, sentenced Father Valentine to death.
Awaiting the final curtain in a dank prison cell, Valentine received notes and flowers from the grateful couples whose marriages had put him there. Legend has it that he also fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and on February 14, just before he was executed, he wrote her a note and signed it “from your Valentine,” and we’ve been doing just that (except dying afterwards) ever since.
See THAT’S what makes Valentine’s Day actually special, the stories; stories of love; funny, passionate, romantic, humiliating, and redeeming. The stories don’t even have to have anything to do with the day itself (and usually don’t), but it gives us a whole day devoted to telling about the loves of our [and other peoples’] lives.
When my great-great-grandfather was eleven years old, he gave the girl who would one day be my great-great-grandmother a valentine that read like this:
The temple’s made of marble stone;
The window’s made of glass,
There’s many a couple married there,
I hope we won’t be last…
I love these romances that were so pure and simple. Some of you may actually laugh out loud at me when I say this, but V-day is an annual reminder that I’m getting closer and closer to being too old for young love. Ok that’s total silliness, I’m only 19, I know. But I can already feel my old soul being too sensible for that ridiculous, blind, nothing-else-matters kind of love that teenagers find in their high school sweethearts. FYI, I won’t even be a teenager a month from now.
There is solace in my single situation. I don’t want to just spend all of my time calling myself lonely because it’s a recipe for staying that way. It would be nice, though, to someday find my weekend filled up with some wonderful somebody or to have one of the three vases of flowers on my kitchen table, right now, have my name on it.
This Valentines Day, 180 million roses were received in America and not one of them received by me. I smile, though, when I remember that my Mom was the Homecoming Queen at the university, but didn’t have a date to the dance that night until the last minute. I look at her now, and look at my Dad’s calendar, and how each day’s task list includes “Have you made her happy today?” and know that someday I too will be adored.