Valentine’s Day

I picked the wrong weekend to go home. First off, I left the spell of warm weather falling upon Greenville for the past few days to venture to the snow-stricken north. Second of all, my whole entire family was sick—every single person.

I spent most of the two days home on the disinfected, or what I chose to believe be disinfected, part of the couch—the right hand end of the “u-shaped” design that took up most of our living room, while the other seven family members sprawled out around the inside. I figured this was my safest bet for avoiding the cold they all had without being confined to my upstairs bedroom alone.

We watched a lot of movies, since all of them couldn’t lift their heads up off their pillows. Usually, since the number of men outweighs the number of women in the house, the men usually have control of the remote and what movies we watch, usually a collection of action movies, or movies with historical plotlines, or, if my dad has his way, western movies.

But not today. Today I was home, and I wasn’t sick, so I quickly snatched up the remote from the end table. Everyone waited impatiently while I took my time scrolling down the list of movies and, feeling festive for the upcoming holiday, finally clicked on “Valentine’s Day.” Disapproving grunts echoed from the men, enthusiastic gasps from the women. Much to the dismay of the men, we started the movie.

As I let the movie whisk me away down different paths on journeys of each different couple, something struck me in particular. I watched as men, young and old, went the extra mile to make the day special for their “valentines.” And seeing how every relationship is different, each man concocted something different, be it ordering flowers, making cards, sending chocolates, arranging dinner, etc. It dawned on me that never once throughout the movie did I see a woman do something for her “valentine.” I mulled over in my head the idea of Valentine’s Day really being a day focused on the woman of the relationship. Then I wondered if majority of women spend time on that day preparing anything special for the men. Then another idea suddenly dawned on me—do the men have expectations for Valentine’s Day?

I quickly posed my question aloud to the rest of the group, only for it to be greeted with muffled mumbles from behind pillows and tissues about the day being for the women. Then after a few moments of silence, my brother gave me his two cents.

“Yeah, it would be awesome and great if the woman didn’t expect anything. That’s what we expect,” he said, half playfully but also half seriously.

I thought about what he said as I watched the boy in the movie wait on the edge of his seat for his flowers he ordered to surprise the girl he liked earlier that morning to be delivered during the recess of his elementary school class. Maybe what he said was true—maybe women do expect too much. I watched as recess came and went without the delivery of the flowers, and I saw the disappointed look on the boy’s face. Then I targeted that question at myself. Am I guilty of this? Have I ever expected anything previous Valentine’s Days from someone or another?

I could only come up with one instance, and I wouldn’t call it an expectation, but more of a hope. I was in the first grade at St. Ann Regional, and I had my eye on a particular boy in my class. I spent the week before Valentine’s Day picking out the perfect themed cards to give out to the class when we finally exchanged, so this particular boy would finally find out how I felt about him. I was a mess over choosing what flavor of lollipop to attach, but I finally decided on cherry. I spent hours making sure each lollipop was taped securely to the card and that each card was perfect before stuffing them all in my backpack before setting off for school.

We exchanged valentines the last half-hour of class, before we all were let out into the yard to be collected by parents. I remember the exchange not being organized, and we all got up from behind our desks and threw our valentines into each individual’s paper bag we each made specially for the occasion on our desks in front of us. And here comes my hope—a valentine from the particular boy on whom I so happened to have my eye.

I ran home and dumped out my bag all over the living room floor as soon as I walked in the door, since we had to wait to open them until we left school. I sorted through the pile of cards in frenzy, picking up any card I thought could have come from a boy. Feeling defeated, I began sorting slowly. Then I saw it at the bottom of the pile—a Star Wars valentine. Turning it over, I realized it was from him. Hence, my hope. My expectation.

“Does first grade count?” I asked my brother.
“Shut up, Nat,” he said. “I’m trying to watch the movie.”

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