(first posted 12 February 2016)
In a recent telephone conversation, one of my granddaughters reminded me that Valentine’s Day is coming round again.
She didn’t ask if I would be her valentine again this year, as I have been for most of her six years, which would have been nice. No, instead she mentioned that she’d be giving a valentine to every one of her classmates at school.
“Every one of them?” I exclaimed, mildly astonished. “Don’t you have, like, one special valentine?”
“No, Gramps,” she replied. “That’s not how it works. In grade one, you give everybody a valentine. All the kids do.”
I wondered how many youngsters there were in her class for whom she was planning to buy a valentine card. After all, how many valentines can a six-year-old handle?
“How can one person have so many valentines? I protested. “Being somebody’s valentine is supposed to be a special thing. Won’t people wonder why you’re giving everyone a card?”
“Gramps! You don’t understand! They won’t know who gave the valentines to them. Mummy’s going to help me print ‘Guess Who?’ on all of them. My name won’t be there.”
“Okay, wait a minute, l’il guy,” I said. “Let me get this straight. You’re going to give valentines to every kid in your class…”
“And my teacher,” she cut in.
“And your teacher,” I continued. “But, you’re not going to put your name on them, so nobody will know that you gave them a valentine. I don’t get it.”
“Oh, they’ll know, Gramps. Everybody knows. They just won’t know which valentine I gave them. That’s the fun of it.”
That’s the fun of it? Back when I was a kid, the fun of it was in deciding whom I would ask to be my special valentine. To which little girl would I dare to offer a valentine card? And who would accept it without laughing? Or worse, not accept it at all?
There was a certain delicious risk involved back then, a risk that made the whole exercise worthwhile. After all, asking someone to be your special valentine meant you were sort of sweet on her (or him, if you were a girl).
But, times change, and so do valentine cards. Now, they don’t ask someone to be your valentine; instead, they proclaim ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’! They’ve become indistinguishable from birthday cards, for goodness’ sake.
Anyway, I wished my granddaughter well with her plans. I harboured the faint hope that perhaps I’d still receive one from her—with her name on it!
Afterwards, I kept thinking about our conversation. Anonymous valentine cards made no sense to me. But, my granddaughter had stated, “They’ll know…”
Well, who’s to say? Maybe they will. It occurred to me that I’ve always sent anonymous, loving wishes to my own two daughters—back when they were growing up, and even now, as they raise their own children. I never thought of that as silly.
At night, after they were asleep, I had the habit of whispering in their ears, to tell them how much I loved them. They hardly stirred as I did it, and they never mentioned it the following day. And, every day now, when thoughts of them cross my mind, I still send little messages of love their way. I always believed that, somehow, they would know I was telling them. Anonymously, as it were.
So, maybe my wee granddaughter is right. Perhaps it isn’t such a ridiculous notion. In fact, I’m even hoping to receive a valentine this year from ‘Guess Who?’