Tuesday, February 14, 2006
The Valentine Box
Roses in crystal vases tied with red satin ribbon; heart-shaped boxes of mixed chocolates; Cupid with his blazing arrow aimed at affection; sweet sentiments upon lace-edged cards. Today I remember all of those things and the times in my life when I faced Valentine's Day with a mixture of excitement and dread. But the most coveted and cherished memory I hold is of the Valentine Box.
In the month of February when I was a child we were given a shoebox and an imagination to create. Thin, rectangular cardboard was transformed into something splendid; a holder for anticipated words of endearment, hopefully from that one special boy or girl. Each box was original and lovely; a project most children shared with their parents. Back in the 1960's, the world didn't seem to revolve so quickly. People weren't rushed or pulled in so many directions, and an evening of quiet creativity was not out of the question.
I felt I held the monopoly on inventiveness...because I had my mother. Always the artist, she would help me create the most beautiful and unique Valentine box, covered in red and white crepe paper. Truly a masterpiece.
Years ago, while missing this beloved tradition, I purchased a plain paper mache, heart-shaped box, painting it fuchsia and white, and covered it with hearts, flowers and pink-cheeked cherubs. Inside I would tuck little notes: "I love M. because she is kind and caring; a true friend." "D. is special because he always has a grin on his face and is affectionate and sweet." The children, catching the spirit, would write their own little notes, slipping them quietly beneath the lid. The idea was not so much to read what the others had written, but to think about the blessings of one another and what we felt in our hearts.
The kids are teenagers now, and the Valentine box has lost much of its fascination for them. Blue iris and apricot roses from a special boy call attention away from its simplicity, and chocolate-covered basketballs are more "manly" than the sentiments once expressed from a little boy's heart. And that's OK. Their love is growing up. I am truly thankful that in its growing, it has stretched beyond the confinement of a paper mache box and found its way into the true hearts of many.
Happy Valentine's Day!