My husband and I met in Paris.
Our children don’t get it: What? Their father didn’t propose at the top of the Eiffel Tower? The weirdly shaped silver thing their mother wears on her right hand is her engagement ring? She didn’t even get it in a real jewelry store?
From our children’s American point of view, Paris is the most romantic city in the world and the French are supposed to be the most romantic of all people. They don’t think that their parents act in an especially romantic way.
Their definition of “romantic” is just not really French. Who could blame them for being confused?
However they gave up trying to understand when it comes to Valentine’s Day. Their parents don’t celebrate. Period.
My husband says that Valentine’s Day is every day for him since he met me. Ah those French men!
That’s half a joke. What he means is that most French people dislike the idea of a celebration of love on a specific day in the company of millions of people.
Once again this year we won’t go out for a candle night dinner, we won’t give each other a gift wrapped in pink paper, and I won’t get red roses.
We have dinner aux chandelles every night, give each other small gifts for no reason, and I get flowers when my husband goes to the grocery store, which is pretty often since it’s no secret that the French love to eat.
This year however I’m doing two special things for Valentine’s Day.
1- The first idea comes from a post on Facebook.
Tim Z. Hernandez was promoting his latest book Mañana Means Heaven as a perfect Valentine Day’s gift. Although an unusual love story I agree that this book is in fact a perfect gift for anyone who doesn’t like traditional celebrations of love.
In this beautifully written and emotionally driven story, Hernandez gives a voice to the mysterious Mexican girl Jack Kerouac alludes to in his book On The Road.
So today in lieu of Valentine’s cards, candies and stuffed bears, I would like to offer you just a few of my favorite love stories.
For children and teenagers:
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Please, Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
If You Come Home Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
A Thousand Spendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Lowland by Jumpha Lahiri
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
2- The second idea comes from my blogger friend Stella. I didn’t know that Valentine’s Day was also International Book Giving Day. The goal is to spread the love of reading among children. So this morning I left a complimentary copy of my novel at the bus stop where every morning I see kids waiting for the yellow engine.
P. S. I realize that I didn’t mention any French love story in my list.
There is one book, though, that I now consider the best love story of all times. I had read Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry when I lived in France, but this is with my children that I understood that this story held everything we need to know about love. And friendship, too.
Because this is in the US that I discovered that Valentine’s Day, unlike its French counterpart, is also the celebration of friendship.
I bought The Little Prince for my children, but they’ve always preferred the French version, so the English copy gathers dust in our home library.
One of my daughters adores this book. Once, when she was a high school freshman she wept as I was reading out loud. Her emotional response to some of the most simple yet beautiful sentences ever written in French on the topic of love and friendship proved to me that she was not only fluent in my native language but also knew everything she had to know about the two most important human feelings.
I wanted to post a cover picture of our old copy of Le Petit Prince but couldn’t find the book. Of course, I thought with a smile, she took it to college. So you will get a small postcard instead and it will be my very small gift for you on Valentine’s Day.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Joyeuse St. Valentin!
Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? What are your favorite love stories?