With disdain, I noticed the bowl of red, foil-wrapped hearts at the grocery store check-out. My craving for chocolate was quickly suffused by my distaste for the upcoming excuse of a holiday. The one that involves copious amounts of red and cupid. I can’t say ‘Valentine’s Day’ without using the sneering tone that Seinfeld reserved for greeting his unwelcome acquaintance, Newman: Hello, Valentine’s Day.
It’s not that I’m anti-romance. My inherent condescension is because Valentine’s Day is the least romantic day of the year, and so it’s with a curled lip and a prolonged eye-roll I greet the buckets of red roses adorning storefronts – at a mere double the normal cost. As you know from my rant from last year, I have very little time for anyone who succumbs to this artificial excuse to buy a box of heart-shaped candy – unless it’s for your kid. Ah, there’s the rub. I just had a light bulb moment. I’ll get back to that in a moment.
With such unabridged and full-throttled cynicism, you might think I am either a jilted lover, or single. Or suffered a debilitating embarrassment one February 14th. Which I’m not, and haven’t, respectively, unless I’ve put such an incident in the back recesses of my mind, never to be thought of again, which is entirely possible.
Reflecting on Valentine’s past, I have some surprisingly beautiful (can I say heart-warming?) memories. In elementary school, which really was its heyday, since it involved chocolate with absolutely no guilt, my brown paper bag overflowed with heart-shaped Mickey and Holly Hobby valentines (and this at a time when giving each kid in the class a valentine wasn’t mandatory, merely encouraged). I would return from school to find a valentine, personally penned by my dad, and attached to an extra-large KitKat bar – only he knew the way to my heart was a mixture of handwritten adjectives and chocolate. In high school I received enough candy grams delivered to my classrooms to signal I was firmly in the middle of the popularity pack: not quite head table material, but permitted to enter the cafeteria, at least. In university, there was always a boyfriend to take me out to dinner, and not all of them were convicts. Losers notwithstanding, my dance card was full, and when you’re twenty this is important.
The evidence speaks for itself: at one time in my life, I had a childlike anticipation for Valentine’s Day that has been replaced with scorn. What’s happened in the interim, besides twenty years of marriage? Note I didn’t say wedded bliss, because those two words should simply never appear side by side.
Any parent knows an upcoming event – fabricated by Hallmark or otherwise – means one thing: a longer list of errands. To the groceries and laundry and cooking add a box of valentines for each child, chocolates to go with them (parents new to kindergarten, take note, we don’t only give cards these days), and then either 24 cupcakes or a fruit platter, depending on the teacher. The sight of that longer than normal list makes me cranky, but what makes me insanely mad is returning with my hard-purchased boxes of valentines only to learn that Spiderman cards won’t cut it for any of my girls, neither will Dora the Explorer, Barbie, or horses.
So when my youngest child insisted on making her cards this year, and this sentiment was readily and strangely agreed upon by her sisters, who rarely agree on anything, I could only do one thing. Hightail it to the local craft store.
Lo and behold, I’m back to the rub. It is my kids who have restored my faith in Valentine’s Day. As I toiled over our dinner (salmon, undercooked) and dessert (chocolate cake, which refused to leave its cozy pan so it was more like chocolate clump), my kids whistled away, cutting and pasting pink and red doilies. Besides the “stop copying me!” complaints, it was like a Norman Rockwell painting unfolding before my eyes.
Of course there’s a price to pay for being a regular Martha Stewart, to the tune of one thousand percent more than I would have spent on a box of SpongeBob valentines. But the value of not having to return the errant box of valentines to the store? Priceless.
Family harmony goes a long way. Building on the enthusiasm of my kids, I’m not hating Valentine’s Day this year; but I’m still opposed to the proliferation of florist rape and anything red velvet.
It is November, not January, or September for other non-conformists, that marks the beginning of the year in my house.
November can be a tough month. Some grow mustaches for a great cause, and select lucky ones fly off to sunnier destinations, since it’s too early for skiers to ski, too rainy for bikers to bike. The rest of us grin and bear November and the rain it inevitably brings. Or go out and buy a sun lamp to lessen their Seasonal Affective Disorder.
I nominate November to become National House Purging month. A month to declutter, reorganize, become the minimalists we all want to be. (In an unbelievable quirk of fate, my friend has set the date for her clothing swap for Nov. 30 – in preparation I have already sorted out my closet: http://reganrants.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/fun-green-and-free-clothing-swaps/
By November, the craziness of September is out of the way – ironing out multiple routines for children, figuring out how to be in three places at once, dealing with new teachers and coaches and expectations of advancing education. October provides last glimpses of decent weather and a brief breather before the Halloween onslaught begins, the indecision about what to be and how to find it culminating, of course, in a sugar crazed fit of hysteria and exhaustion by 9 pm Halloween night.
We wake up with sugar hangovers, and welcome November.
The costumes are put away, the candy stash dwindles, and we settle in for a long winter season. Like clockwork, a desire to purge and organize my house overtakes me.
On Saturday, I innocently started organizing the Barbie bin, and before I knew it had two bags of trash (headless Barbie’s, dolls missing limbs, pieces to toys long since broken), one bag of recycling (workbooks completed, books missing key pages) and three bags for the Salvation Army (naked dolls with only slightly matted hair, toddler toys reluctantly outgrown.)
My children were a vital part of this process. At first they voiced their discontent with shrill screams and tears, but once they understood I was trying to create a better, organized (if not bucolic) setting for them to play in, they were a great help. I would ask them if they still played with an item, and if it was in good working order and they assured me it would be used, we found a bin or basket for it. If the toy in question was broken or of no value to them, they gamely put it in the proper pile to give away or recycle.
At the end of the day (literally – it took all day) they were so pleased that they had helped create this newly organized world, still slightly cluttered but yet new, fresh ground, ready for them to unleash their limitless imaginations.
Next step: their closets. Deep breath.