My dear reader,
Today is the day you’ve all been waiting for…
Kidding. Or not, since your local Mexican joint is probably the only restaurant within a 50-mile radius that has any last-minute reservations available… in case you forgot to book a table for…
That red-letter day everyone anticipates with fluttery hearts and flowery expectations… ok, maybe just the starry-eyed lovebirds who met their soulmate on Match.com a couple weeks back (and a handful of Hallmark and Hershey’s stockholders, perhaps).
Last week, my daughter came home from school and told me her girlfriends were buying up Val-o-Grams like clearance lip gloss and bubble gum.
“What on God’s green earth is Val-o-Gram?” I tried to hide my concern that some enterprising sixth-grader was selling his mom’s anxiety medication out of his gym locker. Again. Yes, this had already “been a thing” when one of our older boys was in junior high. (I’ve made a couple trips around the block, kids.)
“It’s really just a blank valentine. You buy it for a dollar and write a note to somebody, then the Val-o-Grams get delivered on Valentine’s Day.”
I can hear the sales pitch now:
Here, kid, buy some blank paper for a buck and scribble a note on it…
You’re a Bae/Hottie/(flame emoji).
I Heart You
Be My Boo
I Like Big Butts I Cannot Lie (you just know some 7th grade boy is gonna go there. Punk.)
Student Announcer: “And our Valentine Valets will hand-deliver your sweet sentiments all the way down the hall and around the corner to Mr. Brown’s science lab.”
My brain leapt from felony prescription drug charges to ill-fated junior high crushes… and then my heart sank.
“I remember that whole scene. Only for us, it was carnations. Red for true love. Pink for friendship. And white for secret admirer.”
Chloe gave me the question-mark eyebrows. Kid was clearly not tracking.
“‘Secret admirer’ means you’re crushing hard. Anonymously,” I added for clarification.
“Mom, I know what a secret admirer is.” Sigh. Eye roll.
“But you did that thing with your eyebrows,” I insisted. She did. I swear she did.
“Yeah, because… Flowers?! For guys too?” Apparently the manly men at HIJH (nearly all of whom are doused in copious amounts of Axe Body Spray and sporting peach fuzz) wouldn’t be caught dead clutching pink carnations on February 14th or any other day of the year.
“The guys dug it,” I said, matter-of-factly. Because they did. And because I thought it was a cute little play-on-words. Flowers. Soil. Dig?
“That’s weird.” Meaning, Mom’s weird. Her friends are weird. The 80s were weird. She has a point there. (But we can talk about women’s shoulder pads and men’s mullets and Brooke Shields’ undies and Madonna’s armpits another time.)
“I’m not gonna send any Val-o-Grams. I’m gonna save my money and do my own thing.”
Smart cookie, that one. (She’s got 60 bucks in babysitting money, and she isn’t gonna blow it on BLANK PAPER.)
What I didn’t say was… WHEW! Thank God you’re not (literally and figuratively) buying into the Public-Proclamation-of-Pubescent-Popularity Contest. Because honestly, that’s what it is. It’s a social hierarchy spectacle and not-so-subtle indicator of junior high-and-mighty. And the Valentine Valets know it. And they are profiting from the vulnerability and insecurities of 11 to 14-year-olds. For shame.
I remember Carnation Delivery Day like it was yesterday. (Actually, I don’t remember that much from yesterday. Except the hot yoga and cold pizza. I highly recommend both.) For me, February 14th eerily resembled the rising action of “Sixteen Candles.” Plenty of awkward moments and mortifying embarrassment and maybe, just maybe, a little thrill of hopeful romanticism thrown in. But for the most part, Valentine’s Day denoted a whole lot of dread. I dreaded the possibility of getting a red or white carnation from someone who – like me – was gawky and geeky and self-conscious… and mingled mainly with the “Mathletics” crowd. I dreaded the thought of getting one pink carnation from a well-meaning, merciful, misguided friend trying to deliver me from enduring an entire day empty-handed and forlorn. Or the worst fate of all. Zero carnations. None. No love, no friendship, no admiration. Another high-level equation for me and my mathletics team:
0 Carnations + 7 (48-minute) Class Periods = Valentine’s Day Despair.
One girl I knew regularly collected bountiful bouquets during the annual school-wide flower shower. It was an embarrassment of red, white, and pink riches for this girl. I think she topped out at 37 carnations* one year. (If you’re reading this, Hi Gretch!) She was one of those perky/pretty/popular/party girls who made all the boys’ heads turn and cheeks burn (and caused other physiological and anatomical responses as well, but it would be inappropriate for me to elaborate in this family-friendly corner of the world wide web).
*I feel obliged to place an asterisk beside this statistic because she may have already begun dating the guy she eventually wed, raised a family with, and remains happily hitched to. (Hi Scott!)
Chloe went off to school this morning sporting her sparkly valentine necklace and bearing candy conversation hearts and Ring Pops for her friends. She may or may not return home with a Val-o-Gram or a flower (of any color or variety). Either way, I hope she will bound in the front door with a bright smile and a happy heart, because she is loved. Like crazy.
But if my girl comes home empty-handed and forlorn, I will tell her this:
You know what carnations and Val-o-Grams (and fancy chocolates and fine jewelry) do, sweet girl? They make us feel noticed, cherished, wanted… wonderful. It’s not really the swag we crave; it’s the kindness, care, and crazy-about-you vibes. Not the expense, but the esteem.
I read once that there are only two things in life we really long for:
Security and significance.
Every single one of us wants to feel safe and special. We want to be protected and prized. If we’re completely honest, we are all quite desperate for attention, affirmation, affection. We want somebody to tell us we matter, notice beauty in us, talk sweetly to us, and listen and truly hear us. Someone trustworthy to unburden ourselves – bare our souls – to. Someone who will uplift and refresh us, or comfort and console us. When we’re lovable and lovely… and when we’re ugly too. Someone who will look past the unbecoming and see the hidden exquisite. Someone who gets us; who’s got our back; who’ll help us become the very best version of ourselves. Somebody who’s willing to run the whole 26.2 miles with us, pacing us, cheering us, giving us water, urging us onward… toward the finish line. (And then stick around to hug and high-five us in the post-race party tent!)
Someone who’s near.
Someone whose love for you will not fade or falter or fail.
Someone who will never, ever leave. No matter what you do or say or don’t do or don’t say.
He has written you a soul-searing love letter… and grown fields of wildflowers for you.
He sees you. Knows you. Hears you. He defends you. And He delights in you. He adores you, draws you close, sings sweetly over you. When you call out, He will save and strengthen you. Hold you and help you. He gives hope when you don’t have a razor-thin glimmer and drenches you in His good grace. He loves you so wildly and boundlessly that…
He would die for you. (Already has.)
He’s the love of your life… and ever after.
His name is Jesus.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
With all my heart,
P.S. I do hope Chloe gets at least one Val-0-Gram. But far more than that, I hope she knows how dearly and deeply and endlessly she is loved. By the One whose name is Love. And a whole bunch of others: family, friends, maybe even a secret admirer. On second thought, let’s postpone the latter. (Her Daddy is so not ready for that.)