I grew up where the snow flakes were usually cut from paper and hung in front of a rain streaked window. Snow was a little piece of fairy dust that you rarely ever saw. So we cut the mystical ice crystals from construction paper with round tipped scissors and hung them with yarn from the florescent lights overhead in our classroom. Winter in the South is wet, but not usually cold enough to snow. In mid February, the snowflakes came down and the red hearts went up, cut with the same scissors and hung from those same bluish lights. It was exciting. The grade school classrooms with the tiny Valentines and the hope that I might actually get a real Valentine, you know, from a boy, this year.
When I was in the fourth grade, it happened. And I was spoiled forever after. A boy in the fifth grade at my Catholic school set the bar so high, that only years later would even my husband of seven years come close! Southern Belles LOVED to be spoiled. And now, as of age nine, my very first real Valentine experience, created a new definition of spoiling that I would never forget. Gary was his name. An older boy in the fifth grade, he made me feel like such a princess that to this very day, I still have the Valentine, made by his own hand, in a trunk of special treasures. When the Valentine arrived at my classroom, my teacher was called to the door. She was beautiful, her golden hair swinging around, calling out my name during our Valentine party. "Beth, something special has arrived for you. I walked over and she handed me a creamy white box, the same size as a small box of crackers would come in...like wheat thins. But it was creamy and had a raised french pattern on it. Gary had decorated it with a little school picture of himself, so cute with light blonde hair and bright blue eyes, he was beautiful! Especially surrounded in little red hearts that he had cut out one by one and made a frame around his lovely face. He had cut out letters from a magazine that spelled out, "Beautiful Beth" and glued it across the top. He had found little pictures of hearts and cupids and "I Love You's" and glued them all over the front and back of the box. Gary was so sweet and thoughtful. He found letters and candy hearts and glued them across the back to spell, "Be my Valentine" and "Be Mine." Inside the box was ALL of the tiny Valentines that come in a package of children's cards....you know, those tiny little grade school Valentines. He signed them ALL to me and put them all...in separate envelopes all addressed to me. Wow. I was showered with Valentines, plus the box was stunning! The amount of time he must have spent on that gift took my breath away and needless to say made me the center of attention in the fourth grade. Remember, he was in fifth grade...an older boy!
I must have kept Gary alive in my heart and from age nine knew exactly what I wanted in a husband. And I found it when I met my Yankee. A blonde, blue-eyed gentleman who knew exactly how to treat a Belle and make her feel special.
But,I have a Valentines story that continues to blow my friends away...and when I ever, rarely, ahem...complain about life with my Yankee to ANY of my friends...they say, "NO, NO, NO, don't even go there missy...remember the Valentines story?"
It was Valentines Day 1993. It was very soon after I had dragged my pregnant self to the homeland from California so I could have my baby on Southern soil. We were in a small apartment in Tuscaloosa with most of our belongings in storage in LA. I had left the Soap Opera, Days of Our Lives and we were hunkered down "nesting" waiting for the love of our lives. Valentine's Day fell over a weekend that year and it was freezing cold and rainy. I had a hair appointment Saturday morning. I went shopping afterwards at Parisian. Yankee dropped me off and said he had an errand to run. When he picked me up, he said he thought I should maybe pick out my own Valentine this year and suggested we go to Birmingham, 60 miles away to the Galleria! Hey, no problem...awesome idea Honey! As we got into town, of course, as pregnant as I was, I had to go potty. Yankee stopped at a hotel, saying, they would have nicer facilities for me. I went inside and he sat in the car. As I was walking down the hallway, he came in behind me and walked with me...helping me look for the restroom. He said he had to go too. I followed him. We went down a hallway where there were rooms...I said "are you sure this is right?" He says..."Oh my gosh....look what I found....a key." He bends over and picks up one of those key cards off the floor. He says...let's see if it works. He sticks the key in and it opens the door. He says to me..."go on in"...and the room is filled with red roses...everywhere... and red petals all over the bed and wrapped presents...new bottles of my perfume..and candles. It was Belle in wonderland. I couldn't close my mouth! I saw all my make up and bath products and clothes...he had packed all my things...all the RIGHT things...he had paid attention to what I used!! I turned around and around taking it all in...eventually sitting down on the bed. I could barely speak. I looked up at him...he is 6'2"...and he kneels in front of me and says..."I wanted this year to be special...it will be our last Valentines Day as a couple...just us....our little guy will be here soon, so I thought this would be good...do you like it?" Still not able to find all the words, I threw my arms around him kissed him passionately and whispered in his ear..."Honey, I love you so much, you are amazing...I still have to pee."
He laughed. I said, "Seriously how in the world did you do this?" He said, "I packed your things as fast as I could and drove here while you got your haircut and got the room and the flowers and flew back to Tuscaloosa...luckily, you had to pee so the rest was easy." He laughed. I still don't know how he managed that!
That was my very best Valentines Day ever. Ever. He had lived up to Gary and my fourth grade expectations of being spoiled rotten. To this day, he believes Valentines Day is all about me. I never argue with him on this. His birthday falls two days earlier, so I make sure he is the center of attention.
Valentines Day is a holiday for love, all kinds of love, for a parent, a child a friend. But most of all its the gestures, the details, the time put into the celebration of the day, that, for me makes it so special. Like Gary's heart box, and my yankee sweetheart's hotel room, for our last Valentine's Day as a couple. Yep, I am a spoiled Belle...but little red hearts made of construction paper, like the one my son made me in elementary school that sits upon my dresser, and those little candy hearts printed with Valentine messages, still make my own heart skip and sing too. Maybe it's WHO the little Valentine is coming from that really makes me feel so special after all.