I am a huge fan of vintage paper, and especially valentines. In years past, every flat surface of my house has had cards from the sentimental to the hopelessly tacky displayed on it. There is a special place in my heart for the “double entendre” genre of vintage paper, young couples riding together on rockets that say, “You make me want to blast off” for example. For years, my spouse and I have been in competition for the tackiest array we could find for each other, from the tastelessly over-traditional to the nerdy professor giving love advice. I even have a whole kitchen series, with captions like like “let’s dance to the tuna wedding bells” and “you’ve got a pizza my heart.”
I realized only this morning that we hadn’t put any of our usual valentines out. I opened two storage boxes and sat down by the lovely vase full of red, pink, and white tulips that my spouse had sent to me the day before. They were accompanied by a great bottle of wine and a modern card on an office theme, “I love you a hole punch.” This was especially appropriate since I have been working from home a lot more lately, given our bizarre southern weather and frequent school cancellations. I sifted through my vintage collection and found two snow themed vintage postcards that were perfectly suited to yet another southern snow day to display with my flowers. It seemed too late to set out more.
Valentine’s Day is a funny holiday. It is loathsome to those who have been scorned by love, and sentimental to others. It has childlike glee, and adult overtones. It can be a day that marginalizes people who don’t fit a certain norm of sexual orientation or gender expression. It has the name of a saint, but is used to sell lingerie and erotic merchandise. It may be the epitome of of human extremes, the desire to be fully loved and the fear that no matter what we do, we will never really be loved enough.
As I sat there today, looking through my boxes of vintage papers, I was caught in the juxtaposition of it all. A part of my soul celebrated the news-breaking federal count decision striking down Virginia’s ban on same sex marriage. Meanwhile, this same afternoon, I knew my own partner was paying his respects to a former student, now in high school, who had ended his own life apparently unable to fathom that it could get better for him based on who he happened to love, and how he identified. We have come far, but have so far to go. I couldn’t help but struggle and wonder, when will love win out over our fear and self-righteous judgment?
I wished every human person could simply feel as light hearted and loved as these silly valentines.
I decided my funny valentines would remain tucked away this year. I didn’t have the heart to put them out today, even though I enjoyed looking through them, laughing, and knowing they would find their way to my usual decorating cycle again in the future. Instead, I prayed. I thought of all the people…men and women…that I have loved both romantically and in deep friendship over the years. I sent out my love, my heartbreak, my crushes, my longings and my admiration for them to the heavens. Our love makes us deeply human, deeply lovable and deeply loved. The real Valentine gift is that we are loved, deeply and profoundly, exactly as we are.
May that love find you today, and always.