Valentine's Day by Spiritualist Julianna Day

"Each day is Valentine’s Day”
It was a cardboard tan puppy -- his head a bit out of proportion to his little black-outlined body – surrounded by (and in places covered by) a smattering of multi-sized red (felt!) hearts. “Please don’t leash me on!,” its sentiment blared. On the white, shiny reversed side, in blue ink, he had carefully printed his name. Vince Aquira. It was 1966. I was seven.

At 5:45 each evening, the driveway gravel crunched, announcing my dad’s arrival home. My already pounding heart was about burst in anticipation. Would he have it? Did he get it? Was he too busy and didn’t have time? Did he forget?

I waited, upstairs, in my bedroom – never ever,ever, ever (ever) wanting my Parental Units to see me anything but totally cool. The sound of his wing-tips on the basement stairs. The sound of the door opening into the kitchen. Wait ..wait .. wait for it … “Juliannnnnnnaaaaaa,” my mom called out, “Daddy has something for youuuuuuu!” I gave my best bored-but-coming saunter down the steps.

There it was. If we had said Oh Em Gee in those days, I would have. A beautiful, small red heart. I knew before I even before my fingers reached the cellophane wrapper that it would be filled with five delectable, waxy, milk-chocolates – and one piece of a decidedly odd, dark chocolate. Just like always. It was anywhere from 1963 to 1979. It was until I got married.

Tim Keegal was sex on a stick. A short stick, but a stick nonetheless. Elton John was warning Honky Cat to Get Back and, oblivious to the beat, Tim and I danced and swayed and swooned (well, I swooned) amidst the hanging puffy hearts and foil cupids suspended from my best friend’s basement ceiling. When the dance ended, my lashes still fluttering, he whispered, “Wow. That was great. Now I want to dance with a blonde.” Clearly Tim was a sharer. Or perhaps he simply took Elton’s advice and figured the change was gonna do him good. It was 1972.

My (now ex-) husband proposed on Valentine’s Day in a fancy-schmancy restaurant parking lot. The proposal was witnessed by the service guy from the local Chevrolet dealership who had been called when the first-called-and-still-on-the-scene tow truck driver couldn’t get the car door open to rescue the locked-in keys.

“So do you want to get married or what?,” the Now Ex shouted. In retrospect, I should have answered Or What. Or, knowing what I know now, should have at the very least confirmed that he wasn’t just asking because I had AAA. But only hindsight is 20/20 and I had really been concentrating on the falling snow and the damage the slush was doing to my new suede pumps. So I said Sure. The length of the marriage would last the same number of years that I had lived at the time of the heartfelt proposal. I was 20.

Last year, I was the official volunteer photographer assigned to follow around a local barbershop singing quartet. They had been hired to perform singing valentines to women around town. Hired by husbands, boyfriends, fathers and friends to appear in their tuxedos, brandish a rose, and sing “Let Me Call you Sweetheart” to unsuspecting women in all (and I do mean all!) walks of life. We went to homes, to hospitals, to schools, to farms. We visited nursing homes and assisted living centers; they sang to housewives and sales clerks and professors and waitresses. My job was to snap a photo of the always-surprised women. There were 17 of them and I was 53.

“That love’s a funny thing,” my best friend’s brother always says. It’s shown in the care we take to print our names so carefully on the white, slippery side of our carefully selected glittery cards; in the joy we feel when we bring to our children a gift that seems to last only a second but becomes a forever memory; in the shaking voice of a young man embarrassed that he couldn’t bring magic to the most-important moment; brought to us courtesy of the dimly lit game rooms of our youth and shown reflected in our eyes, captured forever by a photograph.

This Valentine’s Day I wish you not only a day filled with the knowing that you are loved, but a day filled with loving and with a gentle reflection on the many, many gifts of love you have received throughout your lifetime. If you take those few moments, I think you’ll find you smile and cry and probably wince more than once. After all … that love’s a funny thing.

by Julianna Day
Please note:
Title: “Each day is Valentine’s Day,” My Funny Valentine, R. Rodgers and L. Hart, 1937.

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