I’ve never gone in for Valentine’s Day. The over-priced dinners, wilted roses, and bad chocolates just don’t scream intimate respect, honest discourse, and deep appreciation to me. Neither do diamonds or itchy lingerie. I guess I’m too practical – the Virgo curse.
My husband and I have never acknowledged the day. The year we accidentally booked a sitter for Saturday, February 13, we were despondent. It seemed impossible to find a restaurant not hell-bent on serving champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. (I just want a beer!) If I ever wake up to my husband saying, “Happy Valentine’s Day, babe!” I’ll know body-snatching aliens have invaded.
My aversion to the holiday dates back to school, when Valentine’s was a day of exclusion. A day when some kids got cards, roses, or ugly teddy bears, and most kids got nothing. (I can only hope that schools today have better policies than in the 80s and early 90s when it seemed reasonable to allow flower deliveries to interrupt math class.)
So I forgot about Valentine’s Day until my first daughter started preschool. And then there she was painting a friendship bag to collect cards and asking why we didn’t have any heart decorations.
Now what? Do I staunchly keep to our policy of non-observance? Do I explain that a commercial holiday created to increase sagging mid-winter consumer spending is a fraud? Am I suddenly a hater and not a lover? That seemed extreme. So I did what all great leaders do when they’re faced with the inevitable: I reframed Valentine’s Day.
I’m taking back Valentine’s Day for all different kinds of love: platonic, familial, environmental, tribal. It’s become my mission to make Valentine’s Day the most inclusive day of the year. We craft hundreds of hearts and hand them out to everyone: classmates, neighbors, postal workers, strangers in coffee shops. I’ve hosed down our house with glittery red and pink paint. We sing love songs and eat chocolate for breakfast! (Okay, chocolate-chip pancakes, but heart-shaped.)
We talk about how it’s each person’s responsibility to choose to create a world in which all people feel welcome, respected, heard, and loved. Schools are welcoming (or not) based on each person’s attitude as they walk in the classroom – not just because of a policy handed down by the administration. The same goes for the places we work, worship, eat, play, and wander.
I am so appreciative of the amazing schools my daughter has attended. Places where everyone takes home a friendship bag brimming with sparkly scraps of love. So now, Valentine’s Day is when I get to show gratitude for all the individuals and families in our community who go above and beyond throughout the year to share what they have: their time, creativity, food, hospitality, service: their love.
Chocolate hearts for everyone! Happy Valentine’s Day!