Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Be my valentine

I never thought much of Valentine's Day.

My Jewish identity bristled that its formal name starts with "Saint." My feminist identity didn't want romantic love to be objectified. My romantic identity didn't want my love to be an action item on a calendar. My anti-commercialism identity didn't want any holiday whose chief sponsors were big business. Meh. You know? But I was thinking about it as an adult.

The thing about those kids, though, who grow and develop their own perspectives, is that they've made me reevaluate nearly everything I thought I surely knew. Valentine's Day became a thing this year, as L and G's secular preschool was having fun with it and E's Jewish primary school wasn't observing it at all. E doesn't even like candy but she saw a good time and didn't want to miss it.

Why aren't we doing Valentine's Day at home? she asked. "Because we just don't do it, love." I didn't think much of it.

You don't want to celebrate our love?


My religious, romantic, feminist and anti-commercial identities had to kneel down before my sincere seven-year-old and absorb her question. We had a talk. I explained my issues with the holiday and she neutralized them.

It's no more Christian than Halloween if you don't go to church for it, which we won't, and you always let us go trick-or-treating.
I don't even like chocolate!
We don't need to buy presents. It isn't about that.

We just need to celebrate our family love. It's a love holiday and love is important. Don't you think love is important?

I really can't argue against celebrating family love. The lovely husband was in California last Thursday, so we all agreed in advance that the noteverstill family would celebrate Valentine's Day on the weekend. My eldest began her preparations. She organized the whole event.

On a quiet part of Sunday we all gathered around the kitchen table. There were 25 red and pink sheets of construction paper in front of us, each folded in half and outlined with a heart. E instructed us that we would write a valentine to each member of the family stating something we loved or admired about that person, and one to ourselves, as well. We wrote and colored mightily and then we all read our valentines out loud as we presented them. It was so touching.

We moved to our second activity, a mural E had prepared. She had taken about six feet of paper from the easel roll and bubble-outlined the letters to the words HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY and accompanying hearts and flowers. Together, we colored it in, attentively and scribble-scrabbley, and hung it in the stairwell leading down to the basement. And then Mr. G needed his nap, so we slowly disbanded, having spent a quiet, intentional hour together. The girls continued to make paper hearts and flowers all day, and a quiet contentedness blanketed the house.

There will be ahead of us many ideological conversations about rights and wrongs, morals and standards, going with the grain and finding the courage to be different. But this weekend, there were just faded adult ideals and shiny-new youthful perspectives. And this year, in this house, I learned that I wholeheartedly embrace Valentine's Day.

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