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The Spirit of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day. When is it again?

I ask that question every year, trying to recall if it’s the second Tuesday of the month or the first Wednesday when there’s an extra day in the second month of the year. And each time I’m reminded: “No, it’s the 14th.”

I read somewhere that the average brain is only capable of keeping track of six or seven tasks at once. Maybe that explains why I’m unable to care about, er, I mean remember, Valentine’s Day. We’ve got this jumble of dates filling our brains: Halloween is always on the 31st, Christmas is always on the 25th, New Year’s Day is always Jan. 1 and the Fourth of July is always on the Fourth of July.

What’s more, Memorial Day and Thanksgiving are on a Monday and Thursday near the end of their months. Labor Day is the same situation with a Monday near the beginning of its month.

How are we supposed to remember this oddball holiday when it doesn’t have anything in common with the other holidays? 

The other problem is everyone’s diverging expectations for Valentine’s Day.

Kids see it as another chance to get a gift that maybe didn’t make the cut on Christmas. And, by the way, it’s also customary to give presents on Easter in addition to candy. (Things have changed since we parents were young.)
Husbands can’t get away with buying

flowers and candy because the items are so clichéd the spouse will be accused of not putting any real thought into it. They can splurge on dinner out or maybe even a piece of jewelry, but it’d sure be nice to get something in return. (Maybe a guilt-free fishing trip with friends instead of a visit to the in-laws. Not sure if that will fly.)

And how do wives view it? Don’t know.

And not for lack of trying. I have attempted to give the gift of me, but it wasn’t good enough. Three years ago I gave her a book of gift certificates. There was one for a complimentary vacuuming of the spider webs in the basement. There were nine vouchers for lawn mowing, 20.5 dog walks, a weekend grill cleaning and unlimited child care services for a year. I estimated the value of that package at around $209,326.  

I’m not exactly sure why it flopped. I think it was because she asked to redeem the spider vacuuming service immediately. I wasn’t prepared to go into the wet basement on a February weeknight.

So the gift of me was unacceptable, as were flowers, candy and any big-ticket items paid for with money from our joint checking account. That’s what I asked myself one year: If it is not entirely my own money, does it really mean anything? But the only way I could think of to make my own cash was taking the bottles and cans back, maybe even venturing into stray recycling bins left out for the trash collectors. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

So, smelling like stale Genny Light, fingers sticky from old soda drippings, I heaved my garbage pail of bottles and cans onto the dirty wooden counter at the redemption center and fantasized about how my sacrifice would make a woman happy on such a sentimental day. I had collected so many containers that it took two workers to count them all. I was thinking about a bathrobe with her name embroidered on the lapel, or a full wine rack of imported cabernets, merlots and pinot noirs.

Five dollars and 35 cents. That’s what my Saturday afternoon of hard labor boiled down to. Not even enough to buy a bottle of Ripple. So I just gave her the money. She laughed and felt sorry for me. In an odd way, I had succeeded. Not wanting to lose my momentum, I needed to seize that moment to plan for future Valentine’s Days before I reverted to my old self.

I thought of other creative ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day from the heart, not the wallet.

I thought about doing something like the kids do at school. Who can forget the hurried scribbled signatures and the taste of tape, paste or glue combined with the tiny chalky candy hearts that, for some reason, had to be fastened to the cards? The cards all said things like “Be Mine.” It’s always been awkward for everyone involved, but the tradition continues because schools seem to believe the kids are entitled to a celebration.

If that’s the case, then I say we should just combine Valentine’s Day and Halloween. It’s the same premise. We pretend to be someone or something else in the name of soliciting candy. And if I have a good mask on, it’s easier to look my wife in the eye and say those are real jewels and not something manufactured in a glass lab and sold on eBay.

Teachers would be thrilled to have one and not two days of kids bouncing off the ceilings from sugar highs. And maybe they could even plan the academic year so that February recess includes Valentine’s Day. Heck, I think it would be a great idea to move the trick-or-treating to February as well. The lure of candy is enough to get kids out of the house and exercising outdoors for the first time in three months.

Now that I can remember! So Valentine’s-O-Ween will take place after the Christmas tree is taken down but before St. Patrick’s Day in a fairly uneventful span of time when the biggest thing we have to look forward to is a tax refund or a tax bill.

So, when is Valentine’s Day again?

Aaron Gifford is an award-winning writer who lives in Cazenovia with his wife and two children.


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