Does age affect the way we see Valentine’s Day?

Broken heart

Be my valentine!
I heart you!
Be mine!
I love you!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been bombarded greeted by these declarations long before Christmas was over. Establishments, all the way from bookstores to bakeries, have been more than happy to promote the countdown to the most awaited (or dreaded) holiday of the year.

But before any V-day lovers get their knickers in a bunch, know this will not be a rant on the evils doings of Cupid and his arrows. Nor will it be a history lesson on Saint Valentine and his role in this capitalistic venture upcoming holiday.

Rather, this will be a walk down memory lane (it’s been too long since I did one of those) to explore my attitudes and reactions to the “friendship/love” day.

And so it begins…

Age 6
I remember coming home with a self made, decorated envelope stuffed with “valentines.” Cards illustrated with fat cats and the words “You’re Puurfect, Valentine” made me giggle. The fact that so many people wanted me to be their valentine made me feel special and filled me with joy.

Age 10
Valentine cards, some of them still unopened, filled my backpack. Rushing to my room so I could continue reading “Anne of Green Gables,” I spied Nana, standing regally in the middle of the hallway, a stern look on her face. “Bella, unopened Valentine cards show a lack of respect and appreciation to your classmates. March your behind to the kitchen, pour yourself a glass of milk, and let’s read those cards!” I knew better than to protest.

Age 12
At this age, I had discovered that crafting was not only fun, but also a way to bond with friends. Since we considered ourselves too “big” to hand out valentines, we spent this day making beautiful cards out of glossy paper, lace, and glitter. The recipients? Only our very best friends (known nowadays as “besties,” “bae,” or “BFFs.”)

Age 14
Valentine cards were replaced with “candy grams.” For a mere fifty cents (which wasn’t so mere at the time), you could send friends a lollipop in the shape of a heart, accompanied by a message. Many used this method to send anonymous messages to secret crushes. The amount of candy grams received determined a person’s popularity and sadly, also had the power to undermine the self confidence and self esteem of many. At the end of the day, it was easy to see who was well liked and who was “invisible.”

Age 17
Boys had “upped” their game and arrived at school bearing gifts of flowers and heart shaped chocolate boxes. This was also the time when I received a poem from a young man named Eddie, in which he professed his undying love. I wish I could tell you what it said, but I barely skimmed the contents before shoving it into my pocket. Unfortunately, I forgot all about it and it was destroyed when Nana threw my pants in the wash. When Eddie learned of his poem’s demise (yes, I was stupid enough to tell him), he looked at me with contempt and said, “Bella, may your callous disregard for someone else’s feelings result in you never being loved. Really loved. Like I loved you but no longer do.” (Spoken like a true poet.) Eddie, if you’re reading this, please know your hex worked and to this day, I still believe love is an illusion.

Age 20
This Valentine’s Day brought love (and horror) into my life in the form of a phone call. Hearing the words, “I love you. Will you marry me?” induced a panic attack that lasted for days. (Did I mention it was my first proposal and came from an ex boyfriend I hadn’t seen in two years?)

Age 24
Second marriage proposal. This time my reaction was more positive. Although in hindsight, I would have been better served reacting the same way I had to proposal #1.

Early 30’s
Valentine’s Day was no longer a one on one affair. As a single mother, I went from recipient to delegated card buyer, to crafts expert, to writer of cards. I was also a shoulder to cry on when the Daughter didn’t receive a valentine from “the one” and the Son got too many “stupid girly cards” and none that featured Pokemon.

Age 35
Third marriage proposal. This one came from Christopher, one of my pre kindergarten students who, dressed in a long sleeved white shirt and black shorts, dropped down to one knee, and asked for my hand in marriage. To this day, the beautiful little plastic ring he offered me is one of my most valuable possessions.

Late 30’s
Valentine’s Day celebrations are just a hazy memory. I’m only reminded of this holiday’s existence by phone calls from loved ones (young and idealistic family members), eager to scream, “Happy Valentine’s Day!” Oh, and by the low hanging “Be Mine” sign at the supermarket that hit me on the head and almost gave me a concussion.

Early 40’s
Valentine’s Day? Really? Are they still celebrating that?
Note to self: Include a reminder on Google calendar for February 15. Must beat to the punch other overworked, disillusioned, and exhausted women over the age of 40 for 50% off Valentine’s Day chocolates. (Remember to wear comfortable shoes since physical altercations are very much a possibility).

Oh, chocolate.
You have the power to remind me why I’m still grateful for this holiday. Thank you for that!

Do you still celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Note: Names have been changed to protect the innocent

What counts as a memory?

cc licensed flickr photo shared by hushed_lavinia

Yesterday my son did something really nice. He not only read my blog post, but also provided feedback. God I love it when the men in my life do that! Anyway, he made an extremely good observation. He pointed out that if in order to stay in the present, we abstained from visiting the past, this might ultimately result in the fading away of our memories. Food for thought, eh?

However, I told him that personally, I thought flashbacks pertained to remembering difficult times in the past while memories had to do with reliving positive experiences. Although he walked away muttering, “Nonsense, Mom,” I could see a slight smile on his face. Perhaps because he’s all too familiar with the importance I place on memories.

So how is it that one day I’m encouraging you to “live in the present moment,” while the next I’m inviting you to revisit your memories, you may ask? Allow me to explain.

I was seven years old when I took up the pastime of rocking away on the porch with my grandmother. She always insisted the sole purpose of old rocking chairs was to “soothe the soul”. And soothe the soul we did. We would sit for hours rocking back and forth, sipping our ice water, content as can be.

During these times I would always ask my nana to tell me a story of her youth. She was always happy to oblige. Through her narrations I learned about the time she was thrown from a mule, how she spent her summers in France stomping grapes, and how she assisted her Father in the bakery they owned.

Every story provided me with details of my grandmother’s life and how her passion and zeal for life came to be. I also became aware of the importance of being a survivor and what being a lady was all about. Through it all, my granny would smile and laugh. She always wrapped up every story by saying, “Bella, delving into one’s memories is like reliving a time in one’s life, so make sure that when you do it, you remember the good times and not the bad.”

As an adult, I realize that while reliving a difficult experience can be cathartic, it can also be quite painful. I believe this is what granny was trying to tell me.

As I reminded my son of the difference between a flashback and a memory, my mind wandered. For a moment a series of fond memories seemed to pass before my eyes; my son as a baby, then as a toddler, his first day of school, and his high school graduation. Good times. All of them.

I too was smiling like an idiot as I followed him out of the room.

How about you? What fond memory makes you smile?

Do super heroes exist?

cc licensed flickr photo shared by ***Yellow***

Super heroes. Super powers. The stuff children and many adults spend hours playing, creating, and fantasizing about. When I was a child, many an afternoon was spent talking with my sisters about the wonders of saving the world from evil villains. Our favorite question was always, “If you had a super power, what would it be?”

The answers to this open-ended question were endless. Sometimes we would wish for the much solicited x-ray vision, while other times, we were content to be invisible. Little did I know at the time that I was destined to indeed possess a super power. The super power of being able to go for days without getting any sleep.

I became aware of my ability, when as a single Mom I had to do a million things and very little time to get them done. As my children got older, my talent continued to evolve as I patrolled them round the clock whilst I worked both outside and inside the home.

Every morning I would proudly march into the kitchen–a wide-eyed crazy look on my face, hair dishevelled and still wearing the clothes from the previous day–and announce, “I only slept four hours last night”. The next morning the same announcement was made minus an hour. This process repeated itself until my countdown determined I was powering through the day on only one hour of sleep per night.

I justified my stance by informing others that doctors got a lot less sleep and still saved lives and dismissed any comments that enlightened me to the fact that a) I wasn’t a doctor and b) I wasn’t being paid a doctor’s salary to stay awake all those hours.

I was a super hero who could stay awake for days and days and days. Or so I thought.

As my days of not sleeping turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, I rapidly became one of the monsters super heroes battled. Sleep deprivation had transformed me into a worthy Stephen King character. I found laughing hysterically gave me the added spurt of energy I needed to get down the stairs and into the kitchen every morning. “I only slept 30 minutes last night. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA…” My grown children’s looks of horror only served to augment my psychotic state.

“What’s wrong with you people?,”, I screamed. ”
“Forget it, you’re just jealous cause neither of you has a super power.”
I was one step away from being committed and I didn’t know it.
It took two sisters, two young adults and the dog to get me into a chair that afternoon. Through their accounts I discovered I was a super hero gone bad and that sleep deprivation was my kryptonite. I sadly watched as the cape I had purchased as a joke at a party shop was folded and stored in a box.

“It’s time to retire, Mom,” announced my son.
“Let someone else save the world,” said my daughter.
Scenes of all that I’d done in my time as a super hero flashed before my eyes; staying up all night baking cookies, proofreading papers, folding laundry, bathing the dog, making grocery lists, writing in my journal, scheduling appointments, replying to emails, the mental slides of my accomplishments wouldn’t stop. Who would do all of this now?

That’s when my sister said, “I have a super power.”
I quickly sat up and said, “Really? What is it?” It was like we were five years old again.
“My super power is called delegating, also known as ‘let everyone else take care of their own crap’. If you want, I’ll let you have it for a while.”
My other sister said, “I have the greatest super power. It’s the super power of doing nothing, absolutely nothing.”
“Not fair! I want that one!” I replied.
And then I fell asleep.