As much as I hate to admit it, I was probably approaching my teenage years before I realized that a real human heart wasn’t shaped like a valentine. I guess my ignorance of anatomy resulted from the fact that those once-a-year valentine parties at school far outweighed anything I chose to remember from my once-a-week health classes. As the big day rolled around, the teacher would write the name of everybody in the room on the blackboard. (Blackboards were really black back then). I’d copy the list, take it home, and on the designated day -- usually the Friday closest to February 14 -- I’d bring everybody on the list a little valentine that Mom had bought at Murphy’s five and ten.
There was always a big, colorfully crepe-paper decorated box with a slit in the top on the middle of the teacher’s desk, and that’s where we’d “mail” them. The only time I ever made a homemade valentine was when I was about ten and got the silly notion that a certain blue-eyed older woman (she was at least eleven) in another room would think I thought her more special if I took the time and effort to make her a valentine instead of giving her one of the store-bought ones. As it turned out, she wasn’t the least bit impressed and I learned why that naked little Cupid feller carries a bow and arrow. My heart was pierced deeply.
Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that has been wonderful to two groups: It’s made millions for card companies and it’s helped bail out many an erring husband from the doghouse. Even though it’s not designated a religious holiday, according to legend the day was named for a Roman named St. Valentine who in 269 A. D., was jailed and later beheaded for refusing to renounce Christianity. The story goes that he left a note to the jailer’s daughter, and was supposed to have signed it, “From your special Valentine.”
There’s also an old superstition that if an unmarried woman sees a robin in flight on Valentine’s Day, she’ll marry a sailor. If she spies a goldfinch, she’ll be wed to a millionaire. Although it’s not bird related, I guess if she sees a church mouse, she’ll marry a school teacher.
Another interesting tale about Valentine’s Day is set in the Middle Ages when boys and girls would draw names from a hat to see who their special valentine was going to be. They would then pin the name to their sleeve and wear it for one whole week. Talk about wearing your heart on your sleeve!
Anyway, while we today prove our undying love by spending three or four dollars for a thirty-nine-cent card, in some parts of Europe if a girl accepts clothing from a boy on Valentine’s Day, it’s considered as an agreement that she is willing to marry him. That sounds like a deal to me. I mean, a pair of socks is a lot cheaper than a diamond ring.
Happy Valentine’s Day … especially to Wilma Jean, my sweetheart for the past 54 years.