What is my Valentine’s story? I’m young and have many Valentine’s Days ahead of me, but so far they have really been quite uneventful. So since I don’t have a romantic Valentine’s Day where I met my future husband or was surprised with a cruise to Costa Rica, I’ll write about the years that I loved this holiday the most.
My favorite Valentine’s Days were actually the ones in elementary school before we were old enough to like boys and everyone gave the whole class a Valentine. We would go to the store with our parents and pick out the perfect pack of cards that perfectly said who we were and that the whole class would be talking about. They came in sheets and had a spot for the to and from, simple. Mine were usually silver and metallic with pictures of Harry Potter characters on them. The people I liked most would get Hermione, Ginny, or Luna and everyone else would get Harry, Ron, or Dumbledore. By the end of our annual Valentine’s Day party all my Harry Potter Valentines would be replaced by an assortment of cards and candy from the other 20 people in my class.
But the best part about Valentine’s Day was the boxes. Everyone in the class cut a hole in the top of a shoebox and decorated the outside in their own way. We lined either the hallway or the classroom with all our boxes and dropped a Valentine in every one. I had a lot of fun in first grade making that box. Covering it in doilies – my go-to for Valentine’s Day even today – and painting it red. When I was 6, however, tragedy struck. To my horror, when the day finally came, I had a fever. I was crushed, everyone was at school making their boxes and enjoying the Valentine’s Day party and I was at home. I was missing out on my favorite tradition.
While I moped on the couch, my dad came up with the idea of the year. Even though I couldn’t go to school, I could still make a Valentine’s Day box like everyone else. Then, when I went back the next day, I would have a box for all the cards that were saved for me from the party. But cutting a hole in a shoebox and watching me decorate it doesn’t make for much father/daughter bonding, so my dad decided we would make the best Valentine’s Day box in the class.
I’ve always been a princess girl, so our natural first idea for the box was a Valentine’s Day castle. We took paper towel rolls and cut them to fit the four corners of the box then attached them. We cut the tops of the rolls to look like castle turrets and even added floors just beneath the cutouts so the people could stand on them. Once that was all glued and cut, my dad spray painted it the shiniest red I’d ever seen. The spray painting is one of my clearest memories of that day. I was just a little kid and had no previous experience with spray pant, so when my dad started to paint this cardboard castle all I saw was magic.
While the castle was drying, we painted a wooden dowel white and cut a triangle out of pink construction paper. Then, we took the castle inside and I added my signature doilies as well as construction paper hearts while my dad glued the pink triangle to the dowel to make a flag. I wrote my name on the flag and we added it to the castle for the finishing touch.
This Valentine’s Day box was beautiful. To a six year old it was magnificent, and even today I love it. The next day I proudly carried my bright red masterpiece into school, ready to accept all the candy I had missed out on the day before. But it wasn’t the shiny Harry Potter Valentines that made this year special, it was my whole class oooing and ahhing over my box and getting to say “my daddy and I made this.”
I used that box for three years straight and although the flag needed re-gluing a few times, it was never any less wonderful. When my little sister got to that age, the three of us made Valentine’s Day mail trucks out of wood with working wheels. They were both dark blue and we personalized them by painting little wooden hearts in different patterns to clue on the sides. Our names were on the license plates. He also made my sister a giant purple rocketship once I was past the box phase.
Although the boxes got more complex and impressive once my sister got old enough to make them, my favorite is still the red castle that sits on a shelf in my bedroom, with my name on it’s flag. It was the most simple one, just made out of cardboard, but it was the one that I felt the greatest connection to my dad while building. It was a joint effort and he made my dream of a red Valentine’s Day castle a reality.
Love is complex. It’s messy and confusing and oftentimes Valentine’s Day can make things worse in a rocky relationship. It’s amazing the reactions I see around me from people both in relationships and single. Within my sorority I’ve heard nonstop talk about what everyone is doing Friday. They talk about the surprises their boyfriends are planning, the grand gestures they’re expecting, where they have reservations and what expensive dress they’re wearing. The single girls make jokes about how they will be spending the day with Netflix and ice cream. I’ll be going to Moes and probably spend the evening watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, but I’ll guarantee that although I won’t have as much to talk about the next day, my night will be just as romantic and loving as any crazy plan. And, despite all the excitement about romantic relationships on this day, the greatest relationship I’ve built through Valentine’s Day is the one with my dad.