Vexations And Conundrums – February 2023

It’s In The Cards

My first memories of Valentine’s Day are way back in kindergarten. There was a frisson of excitement as we heard about this holiday from the nuns at my Catholic school. Of course, there was a saint involved in this celebration, as in most other celebrations we were to have. In the photo, St. Valentine was dressed heavily in red and gold and held a staff. He was associated with love, and oddly enough, also with beekeepers and asthma.

We listened in rapt attention, for we were allowed to exchange small cards about love in class. We had to bring enough cards for all the students to receive one. This was not a difficult errand, as valentines came in packages of about fifty, which was plenty to sign. We were told there may be sweets that day as well, and that really caught our attention. This was in the good old days where every child wasn’t on a restricted diet. I never recall any child in my class having a food allergy. Also, our parents allowed us to eat candy at school.

My mother took me to the variety store, and I picked out a sack of what I thought were attractive cards. When I arrived home and emptied my sack, I found there were only a few designs, repeated over and over. I had to select the favorite cards for my closest friends and one cute boy I watched a lot, then put the rest of the cards in a large stack to be signed casually. I recall painfully printing my name until my hand cramped. My mother would explain what the bear or duck said on each card as my reading skills were not yet developed. I remember the night lasted a long time for such a simple assignment.

The following day brought great excitement. We all realized that we liked one another as we walked from desk to desk leaving a brightly colored card for each student. Some students made a special mark by leaving red heart suckers. What a fulfilling day that was.

Decades later this holiday became fraught with issues. I was dating the man who would be my current husband. Valentine’s Day was his least favorite holiday. He kept slipping and calling it Halloween. He spent time lamenting what a rip-off the day was as florists gouged prices on roses. He procrastinated buying anything because of his poor attitude about this wonderful holiday.

One night he showed up for our holiday date looking proud of himself. He bragged about getting the last card in the shop and how lucky he had been to find the perfect card. The card was huge, overa foot tall, and about eight inches wide. I accepted it and looked at the artwork on the cover with interest. Then I read the sappy language printed inside, and a sweet personal note handwritten by my love. I was slow to react, perplexing him.

“Don’t you think it’s perfect?! Wasn’t I lucky this card was still at the store?” he asked.

“Honey, it’s very sweet. But do you notice anything at all different about the card? Look closely.”

He studied the card and responded that he thought the silhouette was creative. It was then I had to point out that this was not a shadowy art rendering, but an African American card, with the embracing couple not of our race sporting what was referred to as Afro-styled hair. He had been color blind.

I saved that card for decades and may still have it in a storage box. The memory of his pride was touching.

This holiday I would encourage you to think of someone who may not have romantic love in their life right now. Perhaps this person would find a warm pleasure receiving a sweet card wishing them a lovely holiday, a card they could prop in a windowsill or place on the mantel as a reminder that someone cares for them. Love can be in small gestures that don’t cost much but mean a lot to the recipient. You can be the person that makes someone’s day special.

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Katina Pontikes
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