COLUMN: A Different Kind Of Valentine’s Day

I’m not sure if all of my readers will feel the same way but, personally, Valentine’s Day seemed to be a much bigger deal this year. Maybe it’s because it fell on a weekend, or because I’m a senior and people are already sensitive about the status of their relationships, or because it has been so cold recently that people were desperate for someone with whom to cuddle. I’m not sure. Whatever the reason, I had heard so much talk about Valentine’s Day before Friday night-and most of it less than positive-that I half expected to hear a voice broadcasted across the school declaring, “may the odds be ever in your favor” early Friday evening-and, by the time the early hours of Saturday morning rolled around and I walked around campus, observing both allied hoards of drunk people commiserating and individual drunk people crying on the side of the road, I was sure I had missed the cannon that signified the start of the games.

By the time I got back to my room, I was confused as to why Valentine’s Day had never felt this dramatic to me before this weekend. I started thinking of how I had spent Valentine’s Days past and, suddenly, had a flashback to something I had not thought about since high school. My Valentine’s Days were always special because I always had a Valentine, and he was my hero the other 364 days of the year.

My dad travelled all the time for his work when I was a kid, and, for some reason or another, he was never home for the majority of the month of February, including his birthday on the 13th and Valentine’s Day. So, starting when we were very young, to make it up to us, my dad would leave rhyming scavenger hunt clues with my mom for her to place around the house on Valentine’s Day morning before my sister and I would go to school. We would wake up in excitement, wait for Mom to turn on the video camera, and start trying to decode Dad’s chicken scratch handwriting. For 15 minutes or so, we ran around the house, tearing things apart, looking for our candy-and, in the end, there were always three boxes of candy hidden somewhere, a little box each for my sister and me and a much bigger box for Mom.

It was never about the candy, though. For 15 minutes, Dad had been with us on Valentine’s Day, and those were the best 15 minutes of the whole day. In elementary school, the day wasn’t about the Valentine’s cards each person in the class put in my self-crafted mailbox; in middle school, it wasn’t about how many people would choose to continue to keep giving me Valentine’s cards even though it wasn’t required; in high school, it wasn’t about whether my boyfriend would choose to celebrate with me. It was always about Dad, the valentine who loved me so much during the whole year that he would do anything to try to make the day special.

Remembering this, I sent my dad a message on Valentine’s Day, among all the feelings of loneliness and exasperation, jokingly asking him where my box of candy was this year. He has been living apart from my mom, sister, and me because he recently started working a new job in a different state, while my family works on transitioning out of my home state of Ohio after my sister graduates high school at the end of the year. He had been trying to go home to Ohio for Valentine’s Day but, due to flight cancellations because of the snow, he wasn’t going to get in until late that night-and, while I would not have seen him either way, I felt sad that my mom and sister wouldn’t be able to celebrate with him either. My mood changed, though, when I got a response to my inquiry about my chocolate in the form of a group text message from my dad to the three leading ladies in his life: “A calendar date, red chocolate hearts, an annual show of affection. But Mother Nature got mad. She snowed in your dad, leaving him short of Valentine’s Day perfection.”

Now, the poem isn’t perfect. No one in my family would pretend it is-but it served its purpose, as it was hard to remain sad after reading it. Staring at my dad’s message, I realized that Valentine’s Day had never been sad for me because it had never really been different from any other day of the year. In making it about family, Dad made the focus of Valentine’s Day not on the people who would choose to demonstrate their love for me on that day or on the boyfriends who might come and go, but instead on the strong family unit around me that loved me each of the other 364 days of the year.
So, for those of you who are still feeling the impact of “Singles Awareness Day” or whatever other name you use for it, I encourage you to try to take a moment to reframe your thoughts. I’m not going to be one of those people who rants about how Valentine’s Day is a stupid holiday and therefore you shouldn’t care. While I’m not the holiday’s biggest fan, I think Valentine’s Day, at its essence, is sweet. It encourages you to think about people in your life who matter to you and to tell them they do, which you know I’m all for if you’ve read my other columns-however, I find it unfortunate that the focus is on romantic love and momentary shows of it. Instead, I am going to suggest to those of you who are still feeling sad-and even to those of you who aren’t-to take a moment to focus on all the people who love you during the other 364 days of each year. For you, this may be your dad, or it may not be. It may be childhood friends, roommates, neighbors, cousins, or any number of people. But they’re there, and I encourage you to find them. You’ll feel better-I promise.

Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights.