Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Case for Valentine's Day

Most of you know that I am not a big Valentine’s Day person.  I can trace the origins of this back to fourth grade, when I had an intense and very ill advised crush on Kris Spears.  His honey brown eyes twinkled with mischief and rebellion, and I worshiped him from afar in our Gifted and Talented Education class.  The smart bad boy has always been my own personal downfall.

Well, this particular Valentine’s Day I had mustered up all of my gumption, and had purchased Kris a special “grown up” Valentine’s card in addition to all of the usual Charlie Brown tear off notes for the rest of the class.  Considering my level of shyness and introversion, this was no less than a Herculean task.  I barely managed to sign my name to it, but I did, and I secreted it at the bottom of his pile of valentines during our class party.  I sat back in my chair next to my friend Lindsey, repressing the urge to vomit, silently opening my own pile of cards and not daring to make eye contact with anyone.  A few minutes passed, and over the general din of a fourth grade class party I heard a sound that struck like a knife into my heart – the unrestrained sniggering of 11 year old boys.  Unable to stop myself, I raised my eyes to the corner of the room where Kris and his friends sat.  

The large pink envelope was torn open on his desk, the card in his hands.  As I watched from under my half lowered gaze, he and his friends laughed again, and he threw the card down into the pile, the incredible joke of receiving such a declaration of affection already forgotten.  I lowered my eyes again, struggling not to cry until I felt another presence at my side.  One of Kris’ cadre stood next to my desk, the card in his hands.  He dropped it in front of me on my desk and said “um…Kris doesn’t like you ok?”

“Oh, ok.”  I shrugged my shoulders, some internal preservation instinct kicking in and causing me to feign indifference.  “Whatever.”  But of course, a feign is what it was, and from that day on I hated Valentine’s Day.  In High School I found a group of like minded friends, and drunk with our cleverness and indifference we formed a club of single people who would celebrate the hated day by scorning tales of great love gone wrong.  There is nothing like a high school lunch period of snuggling teenagers, hormones choking the air, to make someone feel like an outcast!

After meeting and falling in love with Don we found that we both still thought the day a ridiculous ode to consumerism, and a crutch to relationships.  A tradition of celebration not found before Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and latched onto by our consumerist society like a leech to an exposed body part.  Why have only one day a year when only men are pressured to pay homage to their loves with flowers and chocolates and fancy dinners?  Why does our society celebrate a day by making people feel incomplete and a failure if they are not coupled?  Don and I would avoid the horrors of couples making out or fighting over their tables by going to our favorite pub and getting a basket of incredibly messy chicken wings.

This Valentine’s Day, we will still be settling back into Rochester after our month in Haiti.  Hopefully we will be able to run to Whistle Binkies for some wings, as Don is off that evening.  However, I do know one tradition I will be adding to my yearly celebration.  

I have been helping Naomi Darg and the ladies who work at Kado get together supplies for their Valentine’s day special.  They have been making cards with little hearts made out of metal hammered from 55 gallon drums by local artists.  The paper is from an Operation Blessing project in Israel.  This gorgeous card will be paired with a red or pink necklace or bracelet.  I remember the day we went through all of the cupboards at Relax cannibalizing all of the snack and cereal boxes that were red or pink for use in this holiday special!

Yes, I have finally been sucked into the tide of this consumerist holiday – but if I am going down, I am going down swinging!  Can you think of a better gift for the one you love, your lover, your sister, your wife or mother, than a gift that gives back to someone else?  A gift that will help Rosilia build a home for her children, or help Joanna buy food for her son, or help Dorrisaint send her daughter to school?  I can guarantee these one of a kind pieces of jewelry will last longer than a box of chocolates, and be far more welcome.

If you are interested in the Valentine’s special, or any of Kado’s products, contact Naomi Darg at naomi@kadogift.org

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