Archive | February 2013

Valentine’s Day: Love it or hate it

I don’t hate Valentine’s Day, truly I don’t. But there are aspects of this syrupy sweet, commercially-inspired day that I can’t stomach. Allow me to explain my objections.Antique_Valentine_1909_01

The Legend

First of all, the holiday is based on a tragic story of a martyr. From Wikipedia, “St. Valentine’s Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. The most popular martyrology associated with Saint Valentine was that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire; during his imprisonment, he is said to have healed the daughter of his jailer Asterius. Legend states that before his execution he wrote “from your Valentine” as a farewell to her.”

This is not exactly a story that makes me sigh or go “Awww”. History taught me how brutal the Romans acted with early Christians. In effect, when you ask someone to be your Valentine, you are asking them to undergo extreme torture and then die. Not very romantic if you ask me.

The Commercialism

Yes, I’m going there. If you’re only buying me flowers, jewels, dinner or a card because the calendar says you should, then you don’t really love me. Millions of dollars are spent buying advertising time. “Every kiss begins with Kay.” “He went to Jared.” We all know the tag lines, and since we do, it’s probably money well spent.  Buy me flowers when I’m having an bad day. Buy me jewels because you like to see me adorned. Buy me dinner because you want some alone time with me. Or don’t buy me anything, just spend some time with me because you want to, not because you should.

The Envy

Never having had the pleasure of being in a relationship with a romantic man (even one who hid his tendencies in public), I must admit to feelings of envy when women around me receive bouquets of flowers, discuss their dinner reservations, or show off the jewels they received with their morning coffee.  And (in my Forrest Gump voice) that’s all I have to say about that.

The Reality

Unless I am attending a social event, hanging with friends and family, or out to my monthly brunch date, I am home. Alone. By choice? Not really, but I’ve done nothing about that. The on-line dating game scares me. You never know who you’re going to meet out there. I often skip wearing makeup and don’t even get me started on styling my hair. My pumps haven’t seen my feet in months and I gave away my stilettos years ago.

Have I given up on the search for romance? It would appear so, but deep down in my soul I know he is out there and one day I’m going to trip over him.  After my aging Prince Charming helps me regain my balance, he is going to invite me to share a bottle of wine with him. We’re going to find things in common and we’re going to ignore how many times we’ve had our hearts broken.

Of course, he’s going to have to be special, because I am. Special, that is. Not perfect, just special.

Querida Abuela

A couple of my friends are participating in the “A Month of Letters” challenge. I considered joining and then wondered if I really had that much to say. Would I be copy/pasting with pen and paper? I will be participating by responding to any letters I receive after all I actually buy and use stationery and pens. Not everyone does anymore. Letter writing appears to be a lost art.

My grandmother was my last pen pal. She was a teacher many years ago in Puerto Rico and always had4809_1073372560204_7172652_n the most elegant handwriting. When they came to New York City in 1951, the only job she could get was at the lunch counter at Woolworth’s. So she reserved her teaching skills for Sunday school classes at the United Church, on Prospect Place in the Bronx.

My letters to her always began with “Querida Abuela”, although my heart called her Guelita. There were anecdotes about school and family vacations. As time went on, there were updates on my children and on my career. Of course many letters were accompanied by pictures, after all she was back in Puerto Rico and couldn’t see my children, her great-grandchildren, on a regular basis. Her letters to me were about my grandfather and my cousins. She wrote about the weather, how she was feeling, and how things were going at her church. She never signed her letters as Abuela or Guelita. Just a simple, Ernestina. Oh, how I attempted to copy that elegant “E” that we shared in our names (I never did master that little loop of hers).

4809_1073374400250_2555387_nWhen my youngest child was born, we made a trip to the island to visit her and my grandfather. We did not make a great deal of money, but this trip was important to all of us and it only increased the number of letters that passed back and forth. That physical reconnection just added to the importance of our relationship; after all, we were once part of a multi-generational household. My grandparents lived with us (us being my parents, sister, and me) back in the 1960s Bronx.

If I found myself too busy as a young, working mother and wife to respond in a sensible (by her standards) period of time, I would find an envelope in my mail box, with that very elegant script on the outside. Once I opened the envelope, I would find a sheet of paper.  A blank sheet of paper. It was her way of reminding me that I owed her a letter. Sometimes I used that same sheet of paper to write back to her, other times I would go out, buy a card and enclose a letter in that card.

Birthdays were never forgotten, I swear that woman had a computer in her brain. Exactly one day before your birthday, you would receive a card with your name in that elegant script. When you opened the card, out would fall a piece of tinfoil, inside the tinfoil was a crisp five dollar bill. Every year. No matter how old you were.

My beloved grandmother left this Earth in 1989, taking a piece of my heart with her. In her Bible, was a photograph I sent her. Many years later I was cleaning out drawers, in my bureau, and came across a birthday card. Inside the card was that tinfoil.

I think I may pick up a pen this month and write a few more letters than I thought I would. Finding your name on an envelope, that doesn’t have a window, is just special. And I think I need some work on my handwriting. It’s never too late to strive for elegance.