Valentine’s Day isn’t about romance or passion to me. Instead, it’s a blur of fizzy affections tethered first to grade school then later to a woman of valor.
I grew up in a Mayberry-esque town before the internet or big box craft stores were born.
They were halcyon days, when a teacher would hand out construction paper, scissors, glitter and glue, then light a creative match and set our imaginations on fire.
We’d transform our cereal or shoe boxes into treasure boxes. Then, we’d snake up and down the rows of desks, slipping our Valentines into bedazzled boxes, eager to sift and analyze our own.
When I got older there was a season when Valentine’s Day took on a shroud of romance, but even when I started dating the man who would become my husband, I never liked the idea of a retail-imposed, gift-giving mandate. Except that one time in college, under Valentine’s Day pressure but totally broke he came up with my favorite gift of all time — that was true love.
When my firstborn was three years old, Valentine’s Day changed. It happened when my mother-in-
lawlove (MIL) asked if we could have a Valentine Tea. My husband is one of four boys and my in-laws had been waiting for a granddaughter for almost 30 years. They had ideas.
Our mother-daughter tea evolved over time. Initially I hosted the tea. Our menu: heart-shaped PB&Js, strawberry Jello Jigglers, and Valentine M&Ms. For the moms: chicken salad and strawberry cream puffs. In those early years we’d make a craft, plus a card for the dads, and read a special book.
Our Valentine Tea Party became a much-anticipated annual event growing larger each year. When it outgrew our dining room, I raised the white flag. That was the year we moved it to my mother-in-law’s house and it became a family event — the four girl cousins inviting their very best friend (and her mom), my sisters-in-law, my MIL and her best friend.
We’d sit around the dining room table for hours, three generations at school in a sacred space, no one in a hurry to leave.
When we had our Valentine Tea in 2012 — a little late because it was the year I was living abroad — I had no idea it would be our last….
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a very special personal story.