There was a time, in my teens and twenties, that Valentine's Day, for me, meant spending the day in a self-indulgent haze of yearning and loss, self-deprecation and bewilderment. I was a smart, attractive and strong young woman, but I found myself perpetually wandering the streets of my youth alone. You see, I was not a girl that boys asked out. Ever. If a guy asked for my phone number, I'd spend the afternoon walking on air, only to crash down to earth again in the evening when he called and I discovered the only reason he rang was to ask if he could copy my History notes before the big test.
I even languished through studying for two degrees without a single real date or boyfriend. I took a friend of my younger sister's boyfriend to my grad formal, and, depressed about the fact that I had made it all the way through university without a single relationship, got totally wasted and puked all over my strapless little black dress. (Oh and by the way, vomit ruins velvet. Now you know.)
So those were pretty much the terrible years in which I wished February 14 and all its cloying, gushy advertising accoutrement would pass me by unnoticed. But then in my late twenties, I had a year or two of Valentine's Day as all the advertisers and card-makers tell us it should be. I was surprised with a pair of tickets to see Phantom of the Opera one year, I received some cards with lovey-dovey sentiments and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates in others. But as in almost all marriages, that blip of joy and romance and over-the-top Valentine's Day gestures belonged in the early years, and then children came along, and a mortgage and careers and habituation and then it was mostly just a case of trying not to forget to pick up a card on the way home from work. And that's equally true for both of us; I won't pretend it was one-sided.
So here we are now, and I'm staring down at the second February 14th since my separation, and I'm feeling remarkably sanguine about it all. Maybe it's because I really have no regrets related to my single situation, even though I know my ex has moved on and has a new woman in his life. I do not feel -- right now -- as though I'm missing out on anything by not being in a relationship (if only I could've had this same insight at seventeen, or even 27!) In fact, as of 2006, 51.5 per cent of people in Canada over age 15 were unmarried, according to census data. Which means that we singles now outnumber all the married folk out there. So I'm actually in the majority (although advertisers would like to make me feel otherwise).
But at this point in my life I feel completely fulfilled (if sometimes a little overwhelmed). I'm extremely lucky to be mom to two wonderful daughters who use up all the energy (emotional and otherwise) that is left over at the end of each delightful day I spend with my lovely students. So I'm twice blessed: in motherhood and in a career I love. And it's that love that I choose to celebrate this year for Valentine's Day.
I sent one of my young ladies off to Toronto to visit family this week, but I plan to spend the evening on Valentine's Day pampering my other darling daughter with a couple's massage! To be honest, I would never even have considered a couple's massage in a romantic context - something about the idea of each of you being massaged by someone else as you lie, nearly naked right beside each other? Just ew. But to take my nine year-old, who moans with jealousy every time I head to the spa, for her first real massage, and to share it with her in the same room? That sounds like an awesome gift of love to me.
Speaking of love, check out a few of the incredibly awesome sentiments I received from my students today:
Sometimes things get lost in translation, and sometimes they just don't. I plan to "have a great awesome enjoyment day". You should too.
I love that this student decorated my Valentine's Day card as if it were a page in a visual journal, reflecting on their learning! And trust me when I tell you, nothing warms the cockles of a teacher's heart as much as sentences like, "I didn't really know how to do long division and now I'm way better!" or "thanks to you, I know a lot more on John A. MacDonald" *sighs*
To be honest, in my books it's points #1 and 3 on this list that make me feel proudest of all: "Thank you for:
#1) being a fun teacher
#2) not making us sit and take notes a lot
#3) letting us have freedom in class :)
#4) not yelling :)
#5) being awesome!"
And really: who doesn't like being called awesome? Right?
Also: I can now go to my grave knowing that some children (not my own, unfortunately) can tell the difference between my "stern voice" and yelling.
So when I reflect on all the different ways I've experienced Valentine's Day over the years, I'd have to say that receiving the heartfelt love of a child, and knowing you've made a positive difference in their lives? That is far and away the best Valentine's Day gift. Ever.