Happy Valentine’s Day: Through the Years

How do I love Valentine’s Day? Let me count the ways as I chronicle this holiday through my past.

Brach’s Candy Hearts – These Valentine treats have been ever-present in my life since a very young age. And they must be the soft Brach’s variety. Not SweetTart or Necco versions.

Store-bought Valentines – Each year of elementary school, we made our own decorated Valentine holder with construction paper and stickers. We brought those little store-bought Valentines for everyone in the class. Of course, I would secretly pick the “best” one for my crush of the year, hoping he’d notice that I picked the extra-special Valentine for him. When I got home, I’d sort the little cards. The notes without candy were usually tossed in the trash.

Val-o-Grams – My middle school had what was called Val-o-Grams. A cute idea, but really was simply a way to show how many kids liked (or didn’t like) you. The week before Valentine’s Day, the school office sold these little cards and Valentine suckers for 25-cents each. After lunch, the Val-o-Grams were delivered. There was always the girl or guy that made out like bandits, carrying dozes of Val-o-Grams home. I was lucky if I got one or two. And now – 25 years later – I will admit that I was my own “Secret Admirer,” sending a Val-o-Gram to myself one year.

High School Boxes of Chocolate, Balloons and Flowers – Now we enter the stage where people would go all out for their girlfriend or boyfriend. That is, if you were lucky enough to have one. Friends would arrive with bouquets of flowers, huge boxes of chocolate, and mylar balloons. I was probably not alone in hoping I’d have a secret admirer. At the end of the school day, I’d come home to a treat of candy, cookies or some Valentine’s Day creation that my mom always did. Her treats were the best of all!

College and Young Adult Years – Enter the stage of “Valentine liberation.” My girlfriends and I re-claimed the holiday for our own. Who needed a significant other? We created our own Valentine evenings – ordering pizza, watching movies, it was “girls only” at it’s best!

First Valentine’s Day with Husband – My first Valentine’s Day with Bryan was 11 years ago. We were “sort of” dating. We went to dinner Valentine’s Day Eve and then drove to Julian on February 14. He brought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers (I still have a photo of them). I gave him a simple card and Hershey kisses.

The Early Couple Years – As we were engaged and newlyweds, we exchanged small, token gifts. Bryan made me creative, homemade cards (which I still have). We went out to dinner like young couples do. I made him peanut butter Hershey Kiss cookies.

Valentine’s Days with Baby – The first Valentine’s Day with Sophie came when she was 3-months-old and I had just started back to work part time. Our Valentine’s Day celebration was lunch together on campus, before I had to rush home to relieve Nanna from colicky Sophie. One year later, Bryan, Sophie, and I enjoyed a happy dinner together at Island’s Restaurant. How far we’d come!

Valentine’s Day 2010 – I think this year’s Valentine’s Day has been my favorite so far. Sophie gave me a wonderful Valentine present, the gift of sleeping in. The morning started out with Monkey Bread and coffee. Sophie and I made Valentine crafts with heart stickers, stamps, pens, and pink and red paper. Following that was a Valentine’s Day walk with the dogs. Bryan and Sophie did yard work. I read magazines and organized recipes. We had family play (and nap) time. And tonight, we will enjoy a family Valentine’s feast that includes a collection of new Pioneer Woman recipes: Ribeye Steak with Onion-Blue Cheese Sauce, Twice Baked Potatoes, and Mocha Brownies (recipe not online – will update this post). Good thing we had that Valentine’s Day walk!

It’s been a fun and lovely ride through Valentine’s Days past. But I wouldn’t trade anything for the loves I have now! Happy Valentine’s Day!

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