I remember it being really fun in elementary school. Back then, we were all required to bring a valentine for everyone in the class. We all made boxes to hold them, some creative, some not. I remember being assisted by my parents in making a cardboard mailbox one year. Other years they were just cereal or shoe boxes covered in pink paper and cut out hearts or magic marker drawings with a slot cut in the stop. We would have a party in class, in which we would decorate valentines for our parents and play games and decorate heart shaped sugar cookies, all supervised by generous adult volunteers. Then we would collect our valentines and drop one into each person's delivery box, set out in anticipation on his or her desk. Generally they were just the little paper kind from the store, Disney princess, Power Rangers, super heroes, or otherwise. Sometimes they involved candy. Almost all were individually addressed to each person in big-lettered, grade school handwriting. Nothing real romantic or personal, but a valentine all the same.
When I went into sixth grade, my first year of middle school, I didn't realize how different things would be. There was no plan for a party in home room. We didn't make cutsie delivery boxes or decorate cookies. I think I wore something pink or otherwise holiday appropriate to school the day of, but that was about it as far as I can remember. Our homeroom teacher may have given us a little something, but I don't recall. Only one fact sticks out in my mind. I did not receive a single valentine.
I was so disappointed. I hadn't received anything. Perhaps my memory is amiss--perhaps I did get something from Hannah or Leann--but I didn't have a very tight circle of friends at the time and no boy was interested enough in my little sixth-grader-pencil-line-bangs self to do anything for me. I guess I really shouldn't have been expecting much in middle school, but I didn't know that at the time. I was crushed.
That night, however, I did receive a valentine. Someone left a bottle of orange-scented lotion on the front step, rang the doorbell, and ran. I answered it, found no one there, bent to pick up the bottle--and was both shocked and enthralled to see that my name was on the tag. My mother at first thought the gift was for her, until I showed her the paper--it most certainly said "To: Rachel." It was the first bottle of lotion I had ever owned. It was also the first of many gifts I would receive on February 14th over the years, all from the same person--my one and only Valentine.
It was from my dad.
As the years passed, Valentine's Day continued to be a disappointment as far as the boys in my life were concerned. Most were uninterested in dating, let alone bringing around flowers on the so-called "singles awareness day." I still passed out cards and conversations hearts to my friends every year, figuring it was as good an excuse as any to let them know I cared about them. Every year got a card apiece from my Grandma Pullan and Grandma Molen, sometimes with a couple dollars tucked inside. I must give my mother credit where credit is due as well. Every year she came up with ways to celebrate, from heart shaped pancakes in the morning to a beautiful Valentine's dinner that night. One year in junior high she bought a rose for me from the val-o-gram fundraiser the library was doing so that I could have a flower delivered to me on Valentine's day. I think I have the best mom in the world. She understands me more than I ever gave her credit for--especially where love is concerned.
The best valentines, though, were the ones I looked forward to from my father. One year it was a long-sleeved, v-neck purple shirt that I loved at once and wore for a long time afterwards. Another year he brought home a little heart shaped box of chocolates for each of the kids--red with Peanuts characters on the front. Another year it was a simple construction paper heart with a message written on the front which I now keep treasured in my doll cabinet, always reminding me that my father is proud of me and loves me dearly. Every year there was something. Every year, after yet another less-than-stellar Valentines Day at school, I would wait eagerly for my father to come home that evening, knowing that by the end of the day I would have at least one valentine.
In recent years I have gotten pretty skilled at celebrating Valentine's Day on my own. I make sugar cookies, I invite friends over, I give my roommates and friends valentines, I do a nice dinner, I wear pink. This year I even went to the temple on Valentine's Day because it fell on a Thursday and thus coincided with my weekly Temple Night. These college years, I have seem my father at least once a week when he has work with the Provo courts--more some semesters when he taught at the law school. Every year I could count on a valentine and a beautiful, uplifting "I love you" and "I'm so proud of you, honey," though those are not Valentine's exclusive words--he says that almost every time he sees me. This year dad was in New Zealand with my brother Daniel for Daniel's graduation trip. But even though my dad was clear on the other side of the world, I still received my valentine.
"Just thought I would send you flowers and let you know how much I love you. Love, Dad."
I love you, too, Daddy. Thank you for always being my valentine.