Tuesday 27 Sep 2016

Valentine's Day
Jennifer Flaten

At precisely 3:40 pm, the school doors spring open, spilling children out onto the sidewalk. It marks the end of the most anticipated day in February-no, not President's Day-the friendship day party.

Yes, you read that right, friendship day, not Valentine's Day. I can only speculate why the word Valentine is verboten in public school. Perhaps, school isn't cool with the idea of a half-naked cherub as the Valentine mascot or maybe they don't want to promote young love-whatever.

As far as my kids are concerned, the name is immaterial as long as they get a party.

I spy them staggering towards the car buried under mounds of winter clothes. Hampering their efforts to successfully navigate mounds of snow and patches of ice is the fact that they are lugging large boxes decorated with construction paper hearts and heavy bags overflowing with Valentine's candy.

They make it to the car unscathed. Thank god! Imagine how horrid it would be if all that candy spilled out all over the sidewalk. Apparently, the school throws the "acceptable" treat list out the window for the friendship day party. The kids bring home cookies, suckers and candy of all sorts.

I can honestly say that Valentine's Day is my favorite holiday-for many reasons. Reason number 1-chocolate,in fact, reasons 2-10 are also chocolate.

After that, it is because it is the only time you can buy someone chocolate, especially chocolate that you like, for a present and it is perfectly acceptable, nay downright called for, for you to share some. Oh, wait that reason also includes chocolate.

Really, I like Valentine's Day because while a Valentine is mandatory a present is not. Nope, at Valentine's presents are optional.

Naturally, this only applies to old married people and children. It doesn't apply to those locked in the throes of a passionate new relationship, in that instance there is a whole lot riding on the Valentine's or lack thereof, a gift.

Anyway, for Valentine's Day, if you do go the present route there is a lot less pressure about the actual gift. For instance, you could buy someone a giant peanut butter heart and nothing else and still be rewarded with kisses.

Of course, that is assuming no peanut allergies-if there are peanut allergies you've got a problem. You just can't do that at Christmas. As much as the children would love to give me with a huge list of potential Valentines gifts, they can't.

I let them know in no uncertain terms that the true meaning of Valentine's day isn't about getting oodles of presents-it's about chocolate. Okay, so maybe I don't know what the true meaning of Valentine's Day either; promise you won't tell the kids?

Even though I find Valentine's Day low pressure, the children don't feel the same. They put the same amount of thought into what style Valentine cards to buy as most adults put into their first home purchase.

After purchasing, the Valentines I stashed them away otherwise the kids would use the Valentines for everything except their intended purpose.

Not wanting to fall behind, once the calendar rolled over to 1 February, the kids set to work on their mailboxes. They scoured the house in search of the perfect boxes to hold their Valentines. Yes, even though it is "friendship" day they still exchange Valentines.

After finding several empty boxes, amazingly the contents of said boxes just happened to be scattered on the living room floor, they cut, pasted and glued until the boxes no longer resembled old shoe boxes but glorious decoupage masterpieces. Which I had to hide otherwise they would be in shambles by the actual day of the party.

Next in operation Valentine, the actual Valentines, for this, the children set up a command center in the kitchen. With pen in hand and their trusty class list, they carefully allocated the Valentines to their classmates.

Several times, I weighed in on the final decision about who would get what card. The kid would fan an array of cards out and ask me to pick which one their classmate would like best. Ah, what a rush of power determining whether little Sammy would like a puppy or kitty Valentine.

Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.

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