Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Oh, Sweet Valentines!

That which to adults appears as nothing more than a superficial act, often holds much deeper meaning for children.

Do you remember when manufacturers of Valentines made books for children with cards to cut out and envelopes to cut and glue as well? Even in our one-horse town, my mother could always find me a Valentine Card Craft book for Valentine’s Day.

And so for a week or more before Valentine’s Day, I’d be busy as a little bee, cutting out my Valentines. Cutting out the little arrow that went through a slit in the Cupid-angel’s heart and the tiny hearts that needed to be pressed into a slit in his basket. Every Valentine absolutely unique and every Valentine a work of art. Then there were the envelopes that also needed to be cut and glued. It was such fun. It was a grand occupation.

But it was more than that. It was a reflective occupation that magnetically inscribed things into my inner being. While I crafted with scissors and glue delightful little cards, a similar crafting was taking place in my soul. Empathy, tolerance, understanding, and a new appreciation for others was being cut and pasted into my childhood convictions through the context of the paper icons that I was so patiently cutting from each page.

And Valentine’s Day. How exciting. Recognizing the wonder of giving. Thrilled by the kindness of getting. And when he, who my heart painfully longed for as a ‘boyfriend’, but yet so disappointingly never gave me notice, sent me that cut-out bouquet of roses stuck and glued so carefully in that Valentine heart with his own hand, that was as good as it gets.

Valentine’s Day was the special Day that our classmates bonded together as an affectionate group. Sure there were kids in the class that I sneered at as kids are wont to do – but they got Valentines from me and I got Valentines from them, and even that small act corrected rifts in our subconscious. The exchange of Valentines was like a peace offering between all parties, even the school bully, or the misfit. An offering with meaning that I guess I never fully realized until today even though some cards were only sent because the number of Valentines at my disposal exceeded the number of classmates I had.

But than some a--, who will never be my Valentine, started manufacturing books with die-cast pre-cut Valentines. And no envelopes. No scissors needed, just press out the valentines. This effort, without fail, ripped the best cards. And the die-cuts were so sloppy most of them were farther outside the line, than I have ever colored. And so, when pressed out, the Valentine was too much of a disgrace to even give to someone I didn’t care about. Even receiving these Valentines from others meant so little. There was no ambiance of affection in the preparation of these Valentines. Anyone who had them was too buried in the frustration of sloppy cuts and torn edges to think affectionately about anybody.

And then some other a--, who will never be my Valentine, got the crazy notion to package valentines, custom made, ready to go, most of them duplicates of another, in plastic bags. What fun is it to have no hand in the Valentine-assembling process? To have no need for scissors, glue, staples, or tape? To displace the sweet basic meaning and intent of Valentines to a mindless dispensation of a pack of shuffled cards? Even the puns and clever witticisms of the cards, juvenile as they were, had sadly weakened and waned.

So why didn’t I send you a Valentine this year? Because, my heart wasn’t in it? Someone stole my heart years ago when they made ready-made ready-to-send Valentines. At least I have my glue and staples and tape at-the-ready to try and repair some of the damage.

P.S. Amazingly the Grandchildren did get Valentine books from which to assemble Valentines. Yes, they were pre-cut as sloppily as ever. But still, the Grandchildren couldn’t have been more thrilled. Daughter told me, she was thrilled as well to find these books though the search for them was a truly difficult quest.

I WAS NOT so thrilled. Why? She didn’t buy me one!


Pauline said...

Oh bravo! Send this to all the greeting card companies you can think of! I remember those books. We also used paper lace doilies and our own odd-shaped hearts cut from red construction paper. I made all my Valentines this year from bits of paper and some vintage postcards I cut up. Great fun, and how right you are that the making of something was repeated in your soul.

the old bag said...

And, do you know how those pre-manufactured Valentines are received?

If left to themselves during Valentine-opening, kids rip in, grab the gum and throw the rest.... I miss the days of creating, cutting, then actually reading what was inside. Granted, it's now a teachable moment, but we didn't used to have to teach that....

Matty said...

How true! I remember those books, and all the work I did cutting and pasting!
Tuesday night, it didn't even take an hour for both grandkids to put names on their pre-made valentine's,,,and attach a heart-shaped lollipop! The kids came home not talking about the valentine cards they received,,but the candy they got.
Why are we letting this happen? not only for Valentine's day but the other holidays as well. It's all about getting,,,no longer about giving! Now that's food for thought.

Roberta S said...

And "Bravo" to you, pauline, for taking the time to reflect on affection and expressing that affection in such an authentic way -- through hand-crafted Cards!

Roberta S said...

OB, thanks for commenting. I am missing the 'crafting' and 'reading' as much as you are. But your comment surprised me. Valentine's with gum? Oh horrors.

Good thing that is a recent trend. If this had been the case when I was in school, I wouldn't have got any Valentines, and how embarrassing would that be? Because despite my best efforts to chew gum discretely, me chewing gum is SO not a pretty sight...and SO not a pretty sound...

Roberta S said...

matty, well stated. Your comment certainly is food for thought.

Pauline said...

Roberta, I came home from school today with a bag full of Valentines from my 28 little students. Among them were: 7 handcrafted cards, 3 tiny boxes of handmade chocolates (3 to a box), 21 punch-out cards, a flower made from tissue paper and a pipe cleaner, a handmade heart pin (with LOTS of glue holding the pin), a heart shaped box for keepsakes, and a chocolate lollipop! I was surprised and so pleased! And they were so pleased to give these things to me, tumbling over each other to be sure I knew what was from whom.

Roberta S said...

pauline, aren't you one 'spoiled' 'punched-out' Valentine? That is good news. Glad to hear that some artists cared enough to make homemade ones as well. Still ALL of them were selected for you with some thought. Of that I am certain! So let's not be reveling too much in the chocolate lollipop. :)