Thursday, February 9, 2012

St. Valentine's Day in the 21st Century

Having just learned the origins of Valentine’s Day can be traced all the way back to a mid-February fertility festival named for the she-wolf of Rome, I can see why a person might have conflicted feelings.  I’m not sure how much chocolate it will take to eradicate from my tender thoughts of love the image of the mother-wolf Lupa in a cave with Romulus and Remus, even though she saved their lives and they went on to found Rome itself.  OMG.

Even after that the stories wax a bit medieval.  Legend has it that Valentine, a Roman priest, defied his Emperor Claudius by continuing to marry young lovers in spite of Claudius’s wartime decree against marriage, intended to keep men on the battlefield.  Made a martyr by his imprisonment and sentence to death for his defiance, Valentine received countless gifts of roses and sweets from those whom he’d dared to wed. 

It’s said that Valentine fell in love with his jailor’s daughter.  And on the day of his execution, he sent her a note signed, “Your Valentine,” and voila!  The tradition was born of suitors dying with expressions of sweet, if unrequited love. 

We can’t impugn Valentine for our predicament today.  He couldn’t have known from that messy point forward, he’d be canonized, and the rest of us would be duty bound to spend $448 million per year to show our affections. 

Even though an element of coercion clings to the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day, I do enjoy shopping for cards for my loved ones.  Every year I browse the aisles of red and pink, collecting ever so carefully the perfect sentiments for my husband and son, my father-in-law, each of my brothers, my nieces and nephews, my cherished friends, my elderly neighbors, and my cats.  More than once I’ve gotten home and set about addressing the envelopes only to find the cards can’t have been perfect after all.  I don’t remember which one I intended for whom!  Oh well.  It’s the obligatory thought that counts.

I don’t think my husband will get me candy this year as we’ve been hiding candy since the day after Halloween.  It’s the only way not to eat what we didn’t drop into the bags of boogey men or those stockings hung by the chimney with care.  I put it out of sight, or he does.  Then we each forget where we put it.  If we’re lucky, by the time we run across it again in the hall closet or the laundry room, it’s all filmy and undesirable.  One less hour on the treadmill.

Roses are nice.  He used to send me roses at work, from a florist.  That was the best!  I was the object of envy.  Now that I’m retired, our florist is Safeway.  He carries a bouquet home in its cellophane wrap and sneaks it onto the kitchen counter.  But be clear:  I’m not complaining.  I’m blonde, but I’m not stupid.   

I wouldn’t mind a dinner out.  You know, white tablecloths, two forks.  Champagne flutes and a toast to us.  But I know him well enough after 21years to accept that he hasn’t made reservations and now there are none to be made.  All the posh eateries booked themselves full up a couple of weeks ago. 

We’ll have take-out in front of the TV.  A TiVo’d movie and a clink of soft drinks across the end table.  And you know what?  I’m looking forward to it.  He’s the greatest, really.  As his mom told me so long ago – he’s as comfortable as a pair of old shoes.

My favorite old shoes are my go-to fleece-lined boots.  They keep my toes toasty all the way up to my calves.  They’re not really made to wear outdoors, but I do sometimes, to get the paper or feed the dog.  They have a tough soul, er sole, and stand up to the elements. 

He bought them for me actually.  No surprise.  I circled a picture of them in a catalog and left it on his chair.  He took the page and ordered online.  When UPS delivered the box, he wrote on it with a Sharpie, “I love ya, Honey!”

He does.  Of that I’m certain.  And Honey, I love you too.

Happy Valentine’s Day.