An Artist's Quest

My ♥’s on Fire, it’s Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s faithful reader, may your day be filled with love!

As a kid the Valentine’s Day Party was my favorite school event.  I loved making Valentine’s, writing out the names on the envelopes, and delivering the notes into Kleenex boxes covered in pink, doilies, and hearts, names carefully penned in red marker. Coming home with my box of cards to sort and look through rivaled the joy of sorting candy into categories after a night of Halloween trick-or-treating.  Of course as I grew older Valentine’s Day took on a more burdensome weight.  If I was dating someone then the question arose; what should I give him? What would he give me? The whole thing was always disappointing, never living up to movie romance images in my head. If I wasn’t dating anyone at the time it was a lonely night to scorn as Hallmark made and dismiss.  Somewhere in there I decided take back Valentine’s Day and not let the grown up idea of Valentine’s Romance mess with my childhood pleasure in giving Valentine’s Day cards. So began a tradition of sending out Valentine’s to friends and family, far and near.  I have several friends whose Valentine list I am blessed to be on and the feeling I get when I am holding the unopened envelope having recognized the return address is much like I felt as a child riding the bus home with my decorated mail box on my lap, looking forward to spreading them out on the floor in my room, joy, and anticipation followed by amazement at the beauty or cleverness of the dispatch.  This is the feeling I hope to inspire with my own mailings.

I decided to dive into the history of St. Valentine’s Day.  The information is murky at best.  Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.  What all the legends of St Valentine have is common are that he lived in third century Rome.  He either  helped Christians escape harsh Roman prisons or helped young Roman men marry when the Emperor had banned marriage for young men because single men made better soldiers,  or while in prison he fell in love and before his execution he sent her a letter signed “your Valentine” (each story progressively more Romantic it seems).  Whatever the truth he was a sympathetic character and by the Middle Ages St. Valentine’s greeting associated with courtly love and romance began to appear.  The Catholic Church tried to wrestle the practice into religious devotion but romance won out and now centuries later there are an estimated one billion valentine cards sent by mail, and that’s not even counting all the children’s Valentines that will come home in bags and boxes to be scattered about bedrooms floors this afternoon.

That’s enough for today, this week I’m going to dig into the story of how the ♥ shape and heart itself got woven into the story of love.  Until Friday, I ♥ U.

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6 responses

  1. Pamela

    Let us all remember to focus on being loving the other 364 days in what we call a year. One gift will not carry the weight of life, or build love.

    February 14, 2011 at 8:32 am

  2. Calen

    I ❤ U too! I am so glad that you've taken back Valentine's Day. I too loved the elementary school tradition of delivering valentines to classmates' desks. Thanks for bringing it back!

    February 14, 2011 at 10:43 am

    • Bring back the doily and the paste and crooked little hearts cut out of construction paper! Lisa

      February 14, 2011 at 10:56 am

  3. Julie

    Well, you must know that on Valentine’s Day , our hearts were full of love for the Dowling/Thorpes! Your annual pieces of art have made Valentine’s day, A DAY. WE LOVE YOU! We miss you!

    Hmm, I had to have a gum graft on Valentine’s day, but still had the love of my life bring me a dozen roses and chocolate which I was able to suck on on the right side of my mouth. I know, ROMANTIC

    But here’s my thoughts on this day of love. My eight year old boy, Elliot as he has done in years past, hand made his Valentine’s cards to distribute to his fellow 3rd graders for their little party. No boxes, its 3rd grade, they decorated paper bags. The teachers sent home a note saying ,” On the day, children can walk around and place their cards in each other’s bags. No one HAS to bring cards, but if you do bring cards you must bring one for each person in the class.” So, who wouldn’t do this?

    My boy got out the pink construction paper and proceeded to cut out 22 hearts. He then hand wrote in his shakey 3rd grade penmanship, “Casey, Happy Valentine’s Day , Love , Elliot” “Hannah, Happy Valentine’s Day, Love Elliot” “Noah,etc… He then attached two chocolate kisses to the heart and placed them in our white business envelopes.

    That afternoon, walking home, he shared with me in dismay, that “some of the boys” came up to his desk at the party with his Valentine’s Card and told him , ” This is inappropriate to say “love Elliot” to another boy. “.

    Hmm , INAPPROPRIATE to say LOVE. To another boy.

    Elliot then shared that he was very embarrassed and said,” so I told them my mom forced me to write love.”

    I replied, out of love for him and sadness at 8 year olds who had lost their innocence”, heh, if you need to use your mom to defend yourself, go for it.”

    Which relieved him, because he was sad that he had told an untruth and was wanting it to be okay.

    At home, going through his cards and candy, one girl on a store bought card that said, “heh Valentine” she wrote “NOT”. From Elaine.

    Elliot looked at it and said , “This is not nice”. I asked him more about Elaine, turns out she had written that to all the boys.

    Hmmm is it at 8 years old that Valentines becomes misery? confusion? fear?

    Does this all say that we don’t know love,how to love? Do we only equate and teach that love is sex?

    There are 4 kinds of love right?

    Is this a “must do” passage in our lives?

    February 16, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    • Julie your post made my heart heavy. I knew that homemade valentine’s were out of fashion, gone the way of home made Halloween costumes, but I didn’t know that love was out of fashion… well I guess I did know that about 8 year olds the tension between boys and girls is reaching it’s peak. But this idea that the other boys would tell him it’s “inappropriate” (only 8 year old boys in California express their feeling this way I think, better than getting beat up!). You say four kind of Love….I’m going to ponder this more for Friday’s post! Thanks for your story, sorry about your gums! Lisa

      February 17, 2011 at 7:59 am

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