Why is it that children seem to enjoy Valentine’s Day far more than adults? They don’t have angst over the wording or the price of cards or the fact that it now costs 55 cents to mail one. After another frustrating trip to my fifth card shop and leaving empty-handed, I began to have flashbacks to those Valentine’s Days when it was the most fun.
In my mind I was back on Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan and heading into Yanoff’s, a store like Kresge’s, Woolworths, or any other five-and-dime store that stocked a multitude of things.
As soon as my mother and I entered the store, it was as exciting to me as going into the toy department at Jordan Marsh before Hanukkah. You knew this was the right place because all the adults had at least one child with them.
There in front of us were huge square display areas covered with colorful valentines and wooden borders to catch any that might try to fall on the floor where, in their excitement, kids were apt to drop them. Each of these displays had a different price; some were a penny, others were two or three for five cents, and there were various prices in between. Subjects were very innocent. Most cards featured rosy, apple-cheeked children, adorable puppies and kittens, and maybe even a little bear with a bow.
Were they corny? Of course they were, but so sweet. How can you not smile at the squirrel with his stash saying, “I’m nuts about you.” You might even laugh out loud at the sight of a tall pickle and a short olive saying, “Don’t be an old picklepuss” followed by “Olive my heart is yours.” There might have been an old style typewriter with a sheet of paper saying “You’re just my type.”
Valentines were fun for all of us kids and to keep it that way, teachers reminded the class that we were expected to bring one for every student. They all went into a big decorated fake mailbox where everyone “mailed” their cards. Children took turns as the postman passing out the cards they removed from the box. Most of us went home with a stash of cards. Don’t think we didn’t count them to make sure we got one from each student. Woe to the one who short-changed any of us. That person was ostracized for a while. Of course, Valentine’s Day was only celebrated in public schools and not Hebrew school. Our fun celebration would come with Purim, not that far away.
What an innocent time that was. It actually was a pleasure shopping for cards back then. Finding ones I like today is not easy and often not fun. Some of them are mushy, some sweet, some funny, and many are just plain hurtful. I know there are cynical people, but expressing a negative emotion is not really what Valentine’s Day is all about.
I sometimes feel I should write my own verses. Instead, I look at the front of card after card trying to find one for my son and daughter-in-law. I open very few and often I’m sorry I opened those. Finding the right one is not easy; I visit many different card shops hoping to find the special one.
Unfortunately, since Hallmark seems to have a monopoly on cards, the same ones keep popping up. I can understand why some of my non-Jewish friends apologized this year at Hanukkah when they said they couldn’t find a card they liked.
After coming home frustrated, I take out my basket, the one that has the last Valentine’s Day card my late son Brian gave me. I’ve kept that since Valentine’s Day, 1982. It’s the one that ends with, “I don’t often talk about it but I hope you know how proud I am to be your son.”
Then there are the last ones my husband sent me in 1991. There were always cute cards, like Snoopy saying, “To someone special, wonderful, outstanding, terrific, super and fantastic, not to mention cool,” or a bunny saying, “Happy Valentine’s Day from one of your top admirers. And now that I think about it, I admire the rest of you, too.”
But I save the best for last, the one that brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. It’s the one that says, “With all my love on Valentine’s Day,” on the outside and “I enjoy waking in the morning feeling you near. I hold you in my heart throughout the day, happy knowing we are one. I love the time we spend together and I love you. Happy Valentine’s Day.
“I love you always and forever. Nate.”
Myrna Fearer writes from Danvers. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.