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Today's Family Magazine

MOMMY CHRONICLES: Valentine's Day is coming

By Stacy Turner

Valentine’s Day as a single person may have been just another night.  It could have been a fun night out with friends, or maybe even a surprise delivery of flowers from a secret admirer.  Valentine’s Day, as part of a couple, either dating or newly married, could have meant flowers and candy, a romantic dinner, or maybe a weekend getaway.  But Valentine’s Day with a family is just another excuse to be together, celebrate love, and eat chocolate.

Even with all that going for it, today’s Valentine’s Day still makes me a little nostalgic for the Valentine’s Days of my youth.  As a kid, a week or two before the big day, the teacher would send home a list that contained the names of each and every student.  We were told to practice our cursive handwriting, while making a valentine for everyone, so no one was left out.  We each brought in a shoebox that we’d transform, using pink, red, and white construction paper, into our very own valentine mailbox.  We’d dutifully write out the cards and decorate our shoeboxes, anticipating the sugar-filled cupcakes and bright red punch that would most certainly make up our class party.  Before school that day, if we were lucky, we might find a mini heart-shaped box of candy, a special treat from Mom and Dad.

At school, when the day of the party began, every child traveled up and down the rows dropping cards into the appropriate mail slots on each desk.  We looked forward to school that day for the chance to receive a special valentine from someone we liked, and hopefully not from someone we didn’t.  Sometimes, a valentine or two might include a lollipop or a special box of conversation hearts -- those chalk-like lozenges in pastel pink, green, purple, yellow, orange, and white.  Each color was supposed to taste like a particular fruit -- lime (green), cherry (pink), grape (purple), banana (yellow), and orange.  The white (wintergreen) ended up making the entire box taste like mint-flavored chalk.  Still, every kid wanted their own box just to see who got the best messages.  Sayings, like “true love”, “you & me” or “XOXO” were what we often found.  The conversations in boxes today seem less valentine-like, with phrases like “yeah, right”, “LOL”, and “text me” instead.

Today’s class parties are different, as well.  Classrooms now have strict requirements for acceptable treats and snacks.  Homemade items are no longer allowed for fear of allergens like peanuts or gluten, and the red punch of my youth has been banned in favor of juice from actual fruit or bottled water.  Parents are encouraged to send in items like stickers, fun pencils, or small toys, instead of candy to accompany their child’s Frozen- or Avenger-themed cards. Most parents ignore this request, so the Valentine party haul rivals the fall harvest (formerly know as Halloween) party.  Fun activities are expected, so bring your A-game, room parents.

Construction paper hearts are now passé.  Full-fledged Valentine’s Day décor is now a thing both at home and at school, having appeared in stores as soon as the Christmas items were removed.  Valentine clothing like T-shirts, sweatshirts, and socks are sold everywhere, so there’s no reason you and your family can’t look festive as they celebrate the day, too.  And I really don’t mind it.

Now that Christmas and New Years are over and winter break is in the past, an extra dose of color seems like just what we need.  With spring still out of reach, a day filled with color, kindness, and chocolate seems like the perfect solution.  It may be a bit flashier than what we remember, but sometimes, different is good.

So however you choose to celebrate, whether with old school boxes of tiny cards, new fangled gluten-free cupcakes, gorgeous flowers, or festive T-shirts, do something to celebrate the day with your special somebodies.  Don’t mind me, I’ll be sitting with my feet propped up in valentine socks, sorting through a box of conversation hearts and waiting for my valentines to come home and celebrate.