I’ve always liked Valentine’s Day, even though it usually meant finding out no one in my class at school could spell my name correctly. I loved handing out little cards, and when I had time, making them myself. Valentines are simple and nice and it’s one of those rare times when you can hand anyone you like a note. During years when I was too swamped with a newborn around the holidays at the end of the year to bother with Christmas cards, I waited until Valentine’s day to send everyone a letter. My mom always sends us a Valentine’s box with homemade treats and surprising things. It’s a tradition I hope to keep up with my own kids when they eventually move away. (Not that they say they are ever moving–according to them they will live with me forever and ever.)
Normally I help the kids make their own cards. This is Mona last year at the violin store in Valentine production mode:
But this year Valentine’s Day kind of took us by surprise. I was
associating it with next week on my calendar because it falls on a
Sunday this year. Then I realized the kids probably would have their
Valentine’s party on Friday. Then I found out there is no school on
Friday–so the Valentines had to be done last night. This did not fit in
with my work schedule at all, so we ended up eating at Target an hour
before bedtime and shopping for cards and pencils.
Of course, my kids can’t pick out easy cards that you just sign and
are done with. Aden wanted to continue her pop-up theme, and found
something with dogs that you had to punch out and fold and attach to the
main card. Those took her over an hour before she ever got to signing
anything. Mona chose something with a rainforest theme that came with
little play tattoos that were too hard to attach to the cards herself.
So we all sat together at the dining room table cranking out cards, and
it took us well past bedtime but it was nice.
The biggest surprise to me was Quinn, because we set aside cards for
their cousin, and when I gave him one to fill out, he correctly printed
her name. I know he’s been working on writing some numbers and letters,
but I’d never seen him try something as complicated as an upper case E
or an R and he did them really well for age three. He will love being
able to pass out his own Valentines at school next year.
I will admit that Valentine’s Day is one of the holidays where I miss
Ian more than usual. It’s hard having him so far away, and all his
stories when I hear from him make me nervous. I don’t like picturing
him with a gun or in dangerous situations. He seems fine and it sounds
like he’s accomplishing a lot of positive things in Iraq, but not being
able to give your main squeeze an actual squeeze on Valentine’s Day is
So this year I appointed Mona my Valentine’s date. As the middle
child I find she’s the hardest one to make time alone with. I see Quinn
alone all the time, and somehow I get moments alone with Aden, but Mona
is always along for the ride with someone and private moments are
rare. I told her I would hire a babysitter for her brother and sister,
and the two of us would go out to eat and do something special. That
something special will probably turn into a trip to Home Depot for
something we need for the new house, but alone with Mona it will be
special. She’s really excited and keeps asking me, “Am I still going to
be your Valentine this year, Mama?” The only tricky thing is to not
make Aden and Quinn feel slighted, so I’m trying to find someone to
watch them that will feel more like a play date. In any case, I’m
looking forward to Valentine’s Day, even though it feels like my heart
I remember talking to Ian about holidays during the last deployment,
and he said they were no different from any other days, which in a war
is understandable. He barely noticed it was Christmas and forgot about
Easter and Valentine’s Day and our anniversary. I get that and it’s
fine. But it’s another way in which our experiences while apart
diverge. For us holidays are among the clearer moments when we know
exactly what we’re missing. We get used to the day to day life without
Ian here and we miss him in a general sort of way.
But when a day is
marked and set apart we all look around and notice his absence in a way
that doesn’t happen normally. When I started talking to Aden about what
kinds of Valentines she wanted to pass out this year, she got excited
about it, and then got very quiet. “I miss daddy.” I told her I know,
and I did too, and that maybe the box we sent with his Valentines in it
would arrive on time.
If it makes his time in Iraq a little better to remember we’re doing
Valentine’s things this time of year, then I hope he remembers. If it
makes his time harder, I hope it slips by unnoticed.
Either way, I have a date. She’s short and missing a couple of
teeth, but in lieu of my husband it’s hard to think of a sweeter
Valentine to spend my day with.