In my dating days I used to dread Valentine’s Day. So much hype. Too much drama. No thank you, I’ll pass. I’d rather curl up with a book. Then after marriage, with my Valentine securely, irrevocably mine, I gave in to the hype and drama associated with the big day. Rookie mistake, I’ll admit. I envisioned roses, music and candlelight awaiting me after my long 9-5pm workday. Perhaps a box of Godiva? Out to our favorite restaurant, or would we order in?

Our first February 14th as a married couple found me on the sidelines of a city league basketball showdown with my valentine driving down low to the basket. The clock ticked and ticked later and later into the night with each overtime. Who schedules these things? I thought. Obviously a man, single no doubt, and I huffed, arms folded along with the other wives and girlfriends tapping their toes.

But when my valentine came off the court a champion, wide eyed and all smiles like a child inquiring whether I just saw the trick he performed, and eager to grab a quick bite with his new bride, well, I felt like the Grinch who stole Christmas with his Grinch feet ice cold in the snow, an epiphany on the tip of his tongue.

There he was. My valentine! MY valentine. The poorly scheduled rec league hadn’t stopped Valentine’s Day from coming! It came! Somehow or other it came just the same.

It came without cards, it came without tags, it came without roses, chocolates or new bags! Sure my valentine was sweaty, there was no soft music in the air, rather the blasts of air horns and the clacking of folding chairs.

I stood there puzzling and puzzling till my puzzler was sore. Maybe Valentine’s, I thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Valentine’s, perhaps, means a little bit more.

Needless to say, my heart grew three sizes that day. Since then, images of cozy, expensive corner tables isn’t what gets me excited for February 14th. I’ll trade the corner table for a cold folding chair any day, just so long as the feeling of love is in the air.

Last year we helped the kids heart attack our own kitchen with compliments and words of encouragement scrawled onto each construction paper heart. Those hearts lasted longer than any box of sweets.

In years past I’ve tried to give our homemade valentine dinners a little wow factor. And while coconut jumbo shrimp can get dicey with that deep fryer (although they do look amazing when placed on the plate to form little hearts), pink heart-shaped pancakes are much simpler.

The decorated box of classroom valentines are as fun for my kids to open as a well planned stocking, so each year I use their supplies to make a few of my own cards for dear neighbors and friends. Who doesn’t love a quirky card with a great pun? And there is something about Elmer’s glue, glitter and safety scissors that makes the world seem right again.

Our second Valentine’s as a married couple found us at the same pungent gym, same final four. This time with a new baby in my arms. Love is always in the air with a warm bundle to hold close. Instead of tapping my toe, I cheered so loud at the game winning swish, I woke the baby.

Who, in turn, could be heard over the blast of the air horn.

Now that’s love in the air.