When I was a kid, I remember Valentine’s Day as a weird interlude between Christmas and Easter. February was always miserable and cold with nothing much else going on, except President’s Day which was a precious day off of school. But V-Day was sort of this innocuous goofy love-themed holiday that had no meaning to me as a kid beyond the candy involved. We’d get a bunch of little cards with puns and sign them for all our classmates, maybe including a little piece of candy there.
But what really stood out to me was not the school stuff but the home stuff. Typically my sister and I would either be the recipients of a box of candy message hearts or we’d have some in a candy dish at home, or my mom would throw a family party and we’d have a bunch of candy hearts there and then a bunch leftover. And every year my mom made a two-layer chocolate heart cake with pink buttercream frosting.
These days I don’t have the same tolerance for sweets I used to, which is a good thing, although I still look wistfully at the candy hearts and think I’d love to eat like three or four of them and no more.
The cake eventually stopped being a thing as I went into adulthood, and that was just one of many reasons the holiday turned ugly for a while. Once you reach an age where the whole love theme of the holiday matters, enduring it while single is a gut punch—unless you’re really cool with where you’re at on that score, and I was not. Throw in a mild case of Seasonal Affective Disorder when your whole outlook on winter has changed from where it used to be as a kid, and it only gets worse. Suddenly the whole day is about reminding you you’re alone, it’s slushy and cold so there’s nothing to do and even if there was you’d have to go outside in that crap, and football season is over so you don’t even have that as a distraction to fall back on.
But now I’m married, and this will be our 11th Valentine’s Day together as a married couple; but we were together a few years even before that. These days the holiday is defanged, but at the same time we don’t actually do anything special for it ourselves. The first year we were married we tried to do the whole card thing at least, but we both got a horrendous mini-flu that took us completely out of commission for a week and had to get crappy cards at the last minute, which we then promptly forgot to give each other. A few times we’ve gone out to eat, but waiting three hours to be seated gets old really fast, so these days that isn’t so much a priority for us either.
We’re pretty boring about the holiday, actually, and that’s okay. As long as it’s not an object of dread, I’m cool with it. So we low-key it and life goes on, and maybe I’ll buy some cherry gummy hearts if I see them, even though I probably won’t get through the whole package.
But the main point of all this reminiscence, the thing most on my mind right now, is that I could seriously go for a slice of double-layer chocolate heart cake.