I adore Valentines Day.

Valentines Day is my favorite holiday. Unlike Mothers Day, it has no emotional strings attached. (I believe Mothers Day was invented by florists, anyway.) It has nothing that is obligatory, like Christmas and that gift-giving schtick, laden with hidden disappointments and inadequacies. It has not been co-opted by any particular religious group, so you are unlikely to piss off a Jew by accidentally saying Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays or mazel tov or whatever it is that you’re supposed to say for Hannukah.

Valentines Day, to me, seems unapologetically pagan, and full of beans. Valentines Day comes in with hokey red ribbons and velvet covered heart-shaped boxes and lace and doilies and chocolate. How could you NOT like this holiday?

For me, Valentines Day doesn’t really have any ties to my state of partner-ed-ness or lack thereof – just like the rest of my holidays, my Valentines Day is unerringly defined by my mother.

Helen loved art projects with no strings attached. Valentines Day was her favorite holiday also, and she made the most of it. The most glorious part was making valentines. For days on end.

She had a supply of red and pink construction paper, paper doilies, hokey heart wrapping paper, cherub stickers, and massive amounts of scissors, paper, and glue. My sister and I still have a handful of little paper hearts, cut from wrapping paper that has to be 50 years old. It has pictures of fantasy valentines on in, all satin and lace and fabric hearts, full of deadly delicious chocolate. I would recognize a scrap of this wrapping paper anywhere. And we would cut hearts, and glue, and paste, and crinkle up doily lace for days on end. And the best part of it? They were all gorgeous, even the ugly ones. There’s apparently no such thing as an ugly valentine.

And we got to lord it over our classmates, who in my youth bought a box of Snoopy Valentines, wrote their name on it, distributed them in the milk-carton valentine mailboxes and called it good. Even when I was 7, a hand-made Valentine was something from another country, very exotic.

Several years ago at work, I made about a dozen valentines and left them on my co-workers chairs, anonymously. However, like trying to node erotica under a pseudonym, my handiwork gave me away – several people called me up, and said either. Did you make this? Or Thanks for the valentine!! And they stayed on people’s walls and bulletin boards for a long time.

My favorite valentine to date, tho, was not in the object itself, but in the delivery. Lawrence Hall, the architecture building on the University of Oregon campus, has a façade with balconies on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors over the main door. You could tell what level studio you were in by the floor you got to occupy. The oldest and most decrepit grad students got the top floor, with the best balcony. On Valentines Day, probably 1995, I was walking towards a building, when I heard someone yell, Hey, Chris!!

I looked up, and my friends Peggy and Maureen were standing on the highest balcony. Peggy tossed something over, and it took forever to flutter down to me, like watching a maple seed pod spin, endlessly. When I finally caught it, it was a tiny, handmade paper heart. Peggy had been to a craft class the night before, and had created these little gems for all her friends. There was an incredible magic in watching the heart spiral down.

SO. If you don’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other/what have you this Valentines Day, do not repine. Get yourself some lace doilies and red paper from the local 5 and dime, and GO TO TOWN. No one will ever bum out if you give them a valentine.

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