1987 – I remember room 1B, the desks aligned in rows with each student’s handmade mailbox scribbled in crayon. Danny B. includes candy in his valentine envelopes, something more exotic than the chalky conversation hearts, and he is the coolest kid in Mrs. Ferry’s room.
1990 – My parents leave us little valentines at our breakfast plate, including sponge toffee from Sell’s and a kite for each of us. Hockey Boy gives me a cardboard valentine with a devil and a pitchfork that says, “You’re Hot.” I don’t know how to describe the tingling feeling up and down my spine.
1992 – My bestie and I go ice skating and we see Hockey Boy who asks us to couple skate but we turn him down. I am wearing overalls with one of the straps unhinged. I am obviously too cool for Hockey Boy.
1994 – I slow dance with Morgan S. at the Student Council Valentine’s Dance. I totally drag him onto the floor, the lights are totally on, I am totally wearing a red flannel shirt with my uniform skirt.
1995 – The boys’ high school send over carnations to be distributed in homeroom. I receive one from my friend’s boyfriend, J.R. Yeah, it’s not like that. It’s more like a self-esteem valentine for him plopped on a thorny pity stem for me. Like, Please worship at the altar of my chivalry, as there is plenty to spread around, since I, the magnanimous boyfriend of your friend am happy to have so very many young ladies to enchant with my oft-desired carnation in the homeroom mail.
1998 – I am in Indianapolis with Big Pops and TP, on a college tour. I am finding this is so not the school for me, even though they have offered me a very handsome scholarship, and I am freaking out about it.
1999 – Freshman year of college, in love with Goldenboy. I make a comic book by hand and send it to him as a valentine. I receive a letter from him the next week indicating that he already has a girlfriend. I am numb for at least a year and a half. Whenever I find the Xeroxed copies of that comic book, I am amazed at how much free time I had in college.
2000 – After stalking a particular member of the football team for all of first semester, he shows up at my RA room while I am on duty. I am wearing pajama pants with stars and a ’70s cardigan and Doc Martens, an ensemble that should have told him this wasn’t really going to work out. Alas, he corners me in a stairwell that smells like dirty snow and Bath & Body Pear Glace body spray, and he says, Let’s give this a go. This sort of thing does not happen to me, so I am unable to absorb what is happening. He is mashing my face and I am paranoid the entire time that, since I am on RA duty, there is a 99% chance that freshmen on a bender are rolling multiple kegs down the hall upstairs and I am totally going to lose my job, lose my scholarship, lose out on college because I am missing this round to smooch a boy. By the next week, it’s clear he’s not that into me and I feel a mix of relief and dread because we are supposed to go on a spring break trip together and ugh, why didn’t he just turn back when he saw the pajama pants?
2001 – I am interning in DC and have dinner in Dupont Circle with my roommates. We go back to the apartment and my future husband is waiting inside, having driven from Meadville, PA to DC that afternoon. Best Valentine’s Day ever.
2002 – My future husband surprises me at the Safari Bar where Lori S. and Celia N. are stalling me until he shows up, Megan W. having picked him up at the Pittsburgh airport just hours before. Ben in a Box gives me a rose, which is the icing on the cake.
2003 – I am clinically depressed and think my future husband is going to break up with me any day now. My future husband and I have a subpar dinner at Harvard Square and are given a bootleg CD of Jason Mraz by some guy at a shoe store. We go back to my future husband’s apartment and dance to bootleg Jason Mraz. I can barely get out of bed the next day, I am so depressed.
2005 – I am engaged to my future husband. I have no memory of this year’s V Day.
2008 – I give my husband a valentine “from the two girls who love you the most.” We bring our 2 week-old daughter out for sushi. She does not partake.
2009 – Baby Girl and I attend the funeral mass for Uncle Kevin. Uncle Joe gives one of the most eloquent and moving eulogies ever. I am happy to be with my family, but sad to leave my valentine behind in Boston.
2010 – I receive my first handmade valentine from Baby Girl with her handprints shaped like a heart and the feeling is not unlike the tingles of Hockey Boy in the fourth grade, except these ones radiate all around my heart.
2017 – My husband sends me a box of cupcakes to my work at the all-girls school which send a very strong message that I am loved and also that I married well.
2018 – I am helping son prepare his valentines for class when we receive the memo that his school disallows food and candy being brought to school for Valentine’s Day. Son walks around in a huff, referring to Friendship Day in air quotes, and proceeds to write his name backwards on all his packs of Fun Dip in the hope that they won’t possibly know the source of the offending candy, stealth candy dealer that he is.