My Valentines

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“Maman,” my three-year-old said. “We have to buy Valentines.”

“Valentines?”

“Maman!” she insisted in a dramatic tone of voice. “Teacher Barbara said that everybody, everybody needs a card for Valentine’s Day. And a candy shaped as a heart!”

“Me! Me!” Her two-year-old sister added. She didn’t go to school yet, but as any younger sibling she was learning everything from her sister and was already a pro at American celebrations.

The cards and heart-shaped candies made their way to my daughter’s preschool.

“Maman, look what I got!” she exclaimed when she came home and emptied her backpack, containing the same amount of cards and candies.

Her sister examined them with interest, already planning, I’m sure, her cards for next year and anticipating the stash of candies.

Most parents had been reasonable, but a few had gone overboard, sending whole bags of chocolate and candies. I saved some for my husband.

“Remember,” he told me that night when the girls were tucked in bed. “I’ll never celebrate Valentine’s Day.” With that he popped pink-coated M&Ms into his mouth.

“I know, I know,” I said. “It’s Valentine’s Day every day with me.”

“Absolutely.” My husband spread the contents of another bag of candies on the table. “Look!” he said. “This one says ‘Be Mine’ and that one ‘Kiss Me.’” He kissed me. “No, really, Evelyne,” he added. “This Valentine’s Day celebration is strange.”

With my daughter’s first Valentine’s Day celebration, it is true that I discovered one of the strangest American holidays. A day, which was supposed to be a celebration of romance, was in fact also a celebration of friendship.

La Saint Valentin in France is called la fête des amoureux. Google Translator says The Feast of Love. I don’t want to be picky, but the French expression says “lovers” and not “love.”

Year after year, on Valentine’s Day, my four children went to school with little cards, either homemade or store-bought, but always personalized for each of their classmates. In return they would also receive sweet little cards, tokens of frienships.

Year after year, their parents, still rebellious at heart, refused to celebrate love on a specific day.

And yet not so long ago, I found a large manila envelope stuffed with one of my daughters’ Valentines. Little cards shaped as hearts from construction paper or felt, pink and red sprinkles and Valentine’s stickers tumbled out. Names of little boys and girls that I had forgotten pulled me back to the kitchen, where after-school snacks, homework, and games unfolded. Childhood’s nuggets when time stretched as if infinite.

“These Valentine’s cards are very sweet,” I told my husband.

He leafed through. “I agree,” he said. “They are cute and adorable.”

I glanced at him. Cute? Adorable?

The Americans are very convincing at making people change their minds. With our children, Valentine’s Day somehow managed to tiptoe into our lives.

 

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The children have grown and are now university students. Rumor says that my daughter’s boyfriend will cook a Valentine’s dinner for her. The news brings a smile to my face.

Nice combo of American and French tradition.

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As for me, I still favor unconventional celebrations on Valentine’s Day. If like me you don’t have small children who bring home sweet Valentine’s cards or aren’t a big fan of commercialized love, these two following events can speak to your heart.

 

 

GiveAwayBooks

A book is a work of love from one writer to a reader, then a gift of love when we choose to offer a book. It’s my Australian blogger friend Stella who introduced me to International Book Giving Day.

The goal is simple: give a book on Valentine’s Day.

From the website you can get ideas about ways to give your book and also read more about this event that launched in 2012 and gathered twenty-four participating countries in 2014.

Last year I left one book at a school bus. This year I will leave one in my gym’s lobby where I see most people on their phones and kids waiting for their parents.

 

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One Billion Rising, a mass action aiming to end violence against women was launched on February 14, 2012 and is celebrated every year since then on Valentine’s Day.

In 2012 I wrote a post about this topic. I want to believe that awareness is crucial, yet a lot has still to be done. The choice of February 14 can appear strange, but love takes many forms and can be shown in many different ways.

 

Now, your turn: How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

 

Comments

  1. Two very worthy causes for the 14th for sure, now that cards? so cute!! 😊😊

  2. cardamone5 says:

    Ha! I am ahead of the times. i didn’t even know 2/14 was book giving day, but I bought each of my sons a book for this occasion.

    Wishing you lots of happiness 2/14 and always.

    Love,
    e

  3. Evelyne, this was such a charming post. It had me smiling throughout. And that’s no small feat, since i’m at work on my lunch break. Few smiles there! o_O
    Happy Valentine’s Day my friend.

  4. I do tend to buy my daughter some chocolate on Valentines day but my wife and I tend to ignore the day. I love the cars in this post. I am also familiar with finding some of those old gems, tucked away and long since forgotten. I have several hand drawn cards from my daughter. She might have been embarrassed to see them when she was in art school but she’s probably over that by now. I do like the idea of giving a book as a gift. I always enjoy giving books. Like Teagan, I’m reading this at lunch and I appreciate the opportunity to smile at something in my inbox. Happy Valentines Day (I know, everyday…).

    • I’m humbled to be part of so many lunch breaks! And glad that it makes people smile. Books make such perfect gifts. I love it when someone I invite for dinner arrives with a book. Wine and flowers are always great, but a book is really special. Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your family, Dan!

  5. Those cards are adorable. This year, we’re split between making homemade ones and buying them at the store. It can be a cute tradition, but also rife with jealousy (“x got more cards than me!”). I suppose that’s why there are name lists, and everyone must get the same kind of card.

    My best Valentine was when my hubby (then boyfriend) made me dinner! Everything from scratch 🙂

    • The cards here in the US are usually so great that my mother-in-law used to buy some when she visited. She would send them to her friends in France. Valentine’s Day at school could be tough if the teachers didn’t ask for the kids to bring cards for everyone. I can only imagine how sad a kid could be if she or he didn’t receive any. A dinner made from scratch is always lovely! I think that’s the plan for my daughter, this year. See you soon, Jennifer.

  6. I am also giving away books! We had a book drive and the books are going in boxes for families who come to the local food pantry. I’m also sending a book to a little boy in China. I love your idea of leaving books places. Do you have a special book you’re giving? One of yours?

    • Oh this is fabulous, Claire. I will leave two copies of each of my novels. I noticed that most lobbies/waiting rooms have old magazines that nobody wants to even open. I will add a Valentine’s bookmark inside and hopefully make someone happy. See you, Claire.

  7. I much prefer giving books than silly heart-shaped diamonds pendants from large commercial jewelry vendors!!

  8. I am so not a Valentine’s Day fan — long before anyone talked about bullying, there was teasing that went too far, and VD (ha!) was a big cause of it. “No one wants to be your Valentine, nyah nyah, nyah nyah” and so on. But those Valentine bugs are adorable. My favorite VD memory is from my bookselling days. We had women’s music (this was a feminist bookstore) playing all day everyday. On Valentine’s Day I’d play all the anti-love, bad-love, I’m-so-glad-you’re-gone songs I could find. Customers loved it.

    • Valentine’s Day is a good idea at school, as long as everyone gets a sweet card. For grown-ups, it can be bittersweet if you are alone, for example. I am grateful to the first feminists who worked hard to make sure women would one day be equal to men. And to everyone who brings awareness to violence agaisnt girls and women. The road is paved with mean obstacles, but I remain hopeful for a better future. VD at your store must have been something! Some love songs can be too much for my own taste too. My most favorite in the love section remains True Colors from Cyndi Lauper. What a beautiful song and what a voice! See you, Susanna.

  9. Such a lovely post Evelyne, very warming. Happy Valentines Day to you!

  10. Well dear Evelyne, you have made me cry. You describe far better than I the essence of learning what it is like to take on the American Valentine’s Day celebrations, for I experienced just the very same with my own children. Oh the memories of having to go out and boy all those tiny cards, taping little hearts and lollipops on the envelopes, making sure everyone in the class received one, including the teacher, and then looking through them all at day’s end. Cute? Adorable? You bet! And your husband came around didn’t he? I grew up with Valentine’s being purely romantic. Only the most popular girls and boys at school received a card, secretly, but everyone knew who got one and who didn’t. I was overcome by the way Americans did/do it, so that all are included. Wonderful events to support too, thank you so much for the links. And yes, I will say it…Happy Valentine’s to you and thank you for your beautiful, touching and perfectly written post 🙂

    • There are so many things in this country that only foreigners with candid eyes can truly appreciate. In comparison to my homeland (and you know I keep France in a special corner of my heart), there is a will for inclusion that I deeply admire in the USA. It’s not perfect and there are still many issues, but people try hard. The little cards and lollipops (thanks for reminding me of them!) are simple and yet sweet ways to make sure every child is part of the class. Again there are still bullies and more popular kids, but the teachers’ effort is considerable. And parents feel part of this effort. Thank you, Sherri, for your comment. Obviously we’ve been through very common experiences and it’s always good to read them in your own words. Happy Valentine’s Day to you too!

      • You put it perfectly Evelyne, thank you for echoing my sentiments exactly. I am so grateful for our shared experiences…and to think that for all those years, we lived in the same State when our children were growing up. We visited your part of the world several times 🙂

  11. I love the way you describe the bits of our culture from a perspective I might never consider. I also like the fact that you have allowed your children to embrace their culture on there own. As parents, we work to instill our values on our children, but there’s a fine line between heritage and independence. In your posts about American holidays and traditions, it seems that you walk that line very well. Thanks for sharing another great post.

    • When I lived in France I knew so little about the USA. Mostly what movies and the news brought to us. Living here has offered me a unique opportunity to see this country in a very different way. And of course, most of my learning came with and from my children. Their American schooling is also mine. You’re right about heritage and independence. I never felt that my kids should love France because it’s my native land and know every French tradition because they were mine when I lived there. Their allegiance to the USA is natural and strong, but I like it that they know enough of French customs to include them in their lives.
      It works especially well when it comes to food and rituals around food!!!!

Trackbacks

  1. […] My friend, Evelyne, is also participating. You can read about her Valentine’s adventures as a French woman experiencing this American holiday for the first time here. […]

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