Valentine's Day


The celebration of Valentine's Day owes as much to Hallmark as it does to the Calendar of Saints. The Barnett tradition of presents and spaghetti dinner is as shrouded in mystery as Saint Valentine himself. It's really Linda's tradition, a Barnett through marriage, who thinks of me as a kind of miracle — I was born holding an IUD in my hand, according to her. So, the whys and wherefores of Valentine's Day tradition exist in a realm well beyond rational investigation.

In other words, if you think I'm crazy...

My cousin Angie lives in the vicinity of downtown San Luis Obispo. Since we gravitate to the same sorts of places, we tend to run into each other a bit more than might be expected. For example, her parents have a business in Paso Robles about half-a-mile from where I am typing this. I saw them about three years ago. Last month I ran into Angie three times about twenty-five miles from here. The first two times she had just come from having her nails done and was having a very careful cup of coffee at the Border's café. The third encounter was in Barnes & Noble. She had just come from having her nails done. "You must think all I do is have my nails done and hang out in bookstores," she said. The reality turns out to be that she spends most of her time playing Bingo at the Chumash Casino. Angie is easily the most vivacious person in the world. After a visit with her you feel both bubbly all over and totally exhausted. Anyway, we got to talking about one thing and another near the magazines at the top of the escalator. The subject of Valentine's Day came up, probably because they were just starting to market it back then. Angie reminisced about the time when as a young girl she stayed with us while her parents were in Vegas or somewhere on what was probably a Valentine's Day Special. She said she will never forget opening presents after dinner. (I'm not sure she remembers she had spaghetti.) "It was like Christmas all over again."

There's definitely a crazy gene in the family. Evan says it's a happy crazy. Angie got her fair share of it, so she's never dull, but my mother takes the cake. She's been shopping for Valentine's day for at least a year now. That means Christmas and Valentine's Day overlap in her world, as do birthdays, anniversaries and whatever you do, don't tell her about full moons and equinoxes. So, this year — all good things take time — we noticed that we too had accumulated a small stash of Valentine's Day goods. It was really just a matter of wrapping them up and sending them off. No, I have not started my Christmas shopping. I'll do that a day or two after Christmas like I do every year. But the thought of a large, heavily taped box set to arrive precisely on the 14th of February filled with all manner of goods red ranging from cute to disgusting, then all the way back sometimes to delicious, has at the age of thirty-one finally worn me down. I find myself saying, "At least I don't have to wear pink."

The illustration at the top of this post is the outside of the card I am sending my mother this year. She won't see it, so don't worry. The Internet is something they mention on television from time to time. Inside, the card reads, "Guess where your Valentine's Day present was on Valentine's Day. IN THE MAIL! We love you very much, Amie & Evan." We reciprocated, finally, with a package of our own. There's also a t-shirt with the same graphic on it, some chocolates, red and white candies from The Apple Farm, a sort of hourglass thing that leaves "I LOVE YOU" and a heart the other way when the red sand runs out, wrapped in handmade paper (via Judy last year) and matching jute. It's really cute. But, when the UPS man knocks tomorrow, I guarantee we'll feel cheap all over again.

There was a lot of talk about keeping Christ in Christmas this year. I doubt there will be much talk about keeping Val in Valentine's Day. If you have a sweetheart, just get her something, or him something, and I'm sure there's a little something special you can think of to go with it. Just do it. Smile and say, "Happy Valentine's Day."

Amie + Evan