Valentine's Day always seems to creep up on me. I just managed to get the Christmas tree down last week, not all of the bills from the big celebration have arrived, and yet here is another holiday requiring cards and presents. I don't mean to sound like a curmudgeon but it just came around too fast this year. I finally bought the cards yesterday, which for out-of-town destinations must make it to the post office today. But I'm frustrated. The little people in my life don't live close enough to come to my kitchen and make heart-shaped cookies with me. If I make a red velvet cake, they're not here for an after-dinner slice. And if I make it anyway . . . well everyone local who would share it is someone who shouldn't eat red velvet cake. With homemade boiled icing. Or chocolate fudge frosting. Followed by a guilt trip bigger than a case of Hershey's kisses. So, no baking this weekend and no 2-pound weight gain by Tuesday.
Speaking of weight gain and holidays, I just realized that the gods of the calendar probably spaced them apart on purpose. I manage to get my extra Christmas pounds off and along comes this chocolate-laden holiday. If I indulge during valentine week (and it does seem to be a week-long celebration) I can take consolation that St. Patrick didn't have a sweet tooth. However, beer and corned beef can't be taken lightly if one is to properly celebrate the removal of snakes from Ireland. And then there are usually hot cross buns around during March. I do love them. I just manage to get those few pounds off before Easter arrives with all its chocolate rabbits, ham sandwiches and jelly beans. It helps that there is a decent space from Easter until the season of strawberry shortcake, pulled pork and potato salad, but that's a long season, especially when you add flag cakes and hot dogs and peach pie. Well you get the idea, but I'm just now realizing that if I can control Valentine's Day, top off the chocolate gauge at one cupcake, I could be safe from this year's roller coaster holidaze. Sounds like a plan.
But I digress, back to the valentines. I wound up selecting some heart-shaped bracelets to put in the card envelopes for the Princess of Boston and Mr. Smiles. All preschoolers, including boys like Smiley Malcolm, still think the shaped bracelets are cool. And although Malcolm's are red, I am sure Keira will be happy with her pink bracelets since one of her nicknames is "Princess in Pink."
When my children were little I always bought homemade chocolate for both Valentine's Day and Easter. I wanted them to grow up knowing the difference between handmade and store-bought, although I conscientiously monitored their chocolate intake during the following week. Well, a day or two, anyway. Of course there were also some of those hot little cinnamon hearts that turn your tongue the color of sin, the bigger chewy red hearts covered with sugar, and the ubiquitous little hard candy hearts with the sayings printed on them. I remember them from elementary school and the sayings haven't changed in the century since then. We each received a small paper cup of the little pale-colored hearts that said "Be Mine," or "I Love U," and that one I so dreaded in fourth grade "Kiss Me." It's amazing they've lasted all these decades unless they're just being recycled, because, let's face it, they don't taste very good. They are strictly about their printed mischief.
As you can imagine, I do not send valentine candy to my grandchildren in Boston. In the first place, the postage would cost as much as the candy. Secondly, their mother is much more conscientious than I about their sweets consumption. One only has to look in their carrier pumpkin from Halloween, still half full of goodies when I was there during Christmas week. And on closer inspection, one would find that part of that stash is Easter candy left over from last spring. My grandchildren are deprived and I'm not close enough to spoil them properly the way I should behind their mother's back. Spoiling is written into the grandmother's job description, but my daughter takes her job even more seriously. I know I should be pleased that they like broccoli, asparagus and yogurt but at the rate they run it off, an occasional tiny handful of red M&M's wouldn't hurt.
This weekend they are making valentines for school. I remember cutting or punching out valentines from books much like paper dolls. An enterprising parent in Keira's first grade has created valentine kits for the PTA to sell and it sounds like the kitchen table is going to be a busy place this weekend. The kit contains colored paper, envelopes, stickers, lace doilies, ribbons, confetti, sparkly hearts and more. Oh, and a glue stick to pull it all together. There are supplies sufficient to make 24 valentines but I'm hopeful that there might be only 22 or 23 classmates and one card might escape to the post office with my name on it. That would be a better gift than chocolate . . . with the only gain being on the smile scale.
In the long run, I think Sweethearts Day isn't really about candy or presents. It should be simply a reminder to hold close those that we love, appreciate each other and all the good feelings that brings to our hearts. . . and a coupla strawberries dipped in chocolate.
Happy Valentine's Day.