The proposition, “Will you be my Valentine?” inspires memories of anonymous school aged missives sent from secret admirers to those secretly admired. It was a an acceptable occasion to express burgeoning youthful passions many of which were destined to be unrequited. Nonetheless the moment conveniently fulfilled and exhausted the erstwhile yearning.
I always thought it anomalous that my mother persisted every year to send me a Valentine’s card (often with a treat of some description, whether chocolates or latterly money). My brief review of the history of the annual celebration is that Valentine’s Day is “the name of our modern day of love” by which I conclude that it has no other requisite distinction; that is, it is not (as the Hallmark card people might suggest) devoted solely to those of amorous intent.
Although technically estranged from my immediate family at any early age for school, my father, mother and sister continued to be central to the fulcrum of my life. I have never believed in a god, even as a child and in spite of having attended catechism classes in the Anglican Church of Canada (of which I subsequently acted as a Junior Warden in our local parish). But every night before I went to sleep, as I lay on my back in bed, I routinely prayed to god, thanking him (I never knew god as a woman) for dad, mom and Lindy. It was the salt and butter of my evening ritual. They were the objects of my love. To this day I ever and anon find myself repeating the protocol.
My love for family was not what I would call of a particularly gushy nature. It didn’t for instance encompass the more personal aspects of our private existences. Our physical separation conveniently sustained that possible indignity. My alliances with family we predominantly materialistic. With my father it was cars (I had no interest in golf or fishing, his other hobbies). The only qualification my mother made with cars was colour (for example she liked the blue car or the red car). My father by contrast was very knowledgeable about the mechanics of cars He grew up in the back seat of Packard limousine complete with chandelier so he at least shared my affection for sheet metal.
Apart from cars, my mother was my connection with everything else of importance in my life; that is, in the world of Hedonism and quality products. Whenever I purchased a new Oriental rug, painting, sculpture, mahogany furnishing, jewellery or brass accessory, she was the first to know. The communication of the purchase to her was the final step of the catharsis. I never knew her to object to any of my material choices. She was thus poised to be the ultimate approbation of my capital expression (unlike my father who tended to be more inclined to the “investment “ decision which was only a remote feature of the summation by my mother and me).
The fortuity between my mother and me was not consigned to the material world. Instinctively I recognized my mother’s devotion to us all in the family (both immediate and more distant). While I didn’t often have the occasion to exemplify my consciousness, I did so more frequently when my mother was transferred to an apartment in a retirement home. Whether I took her out for a cigarette in the park overlooking the Rideau Canal, or played the piano for her in the library, or wheeled her in her chair to the nearby pub for lunch and a drink, or escorted her for a ride in the country in my car, she was always assured to be appreciative. Whatever our enterprise or undertaking it was rendered by me fully without need to expiate any guilt; indeed I did so with a sense of unrestrained magnanimity.
The ancient Romans may also be responsible for the name of our modern day of love. Emperor Claudius II executed two men — both named Valentine — on Feb. 14 of different years in the third century. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day.
A pagan fertility ritual was held in February each year and the Pope abolished this festival and proclaimed 14 February Saint Valentine’s Day, thus establishing this feast day on the Catholic Calendar of Saints. The poet Chaucer in the Middle Ages was the first to link St Valentine with romantic love.
Whether it’s from your friends, family, pets or even yourself, Valentine’s Day is a day to recognize that love exists in many forms. While relationships are fun and it can be great to have a partner to celebrate Valentine’s Day with, it is not a necessary part of the holiday.
Saint Valentine, who according to some sources is actually two distinct historical characters who were said to have healed a child while imprisoned and been executed by decapitation.
Cupid is often portrayed on Valentine’s Day cards as a naked cherub launching arrows of love at unsuspecting lovers. But the Roman God Cupid has his roots in Greek mythology as the Greek god of love, Eros. Accounts of his birth vary; some say he is the son of Nyx and Erebus; others, of Aphrodite and Ares; still others suggest he is the son of Iris and Zephyrus or even Aphrodite and Zeus (who would have been both his father and grandfather).
And so the celebration of Valentine’s Day goes on, in varied ways. Many will break the bank buying jewelry and flowers for their beloveds. Some will celebrate in a SAD (that’s Singles Awareness Day) way, dining alone and bingeing on self-gifted chocolates — while others will find a way to make peace with singlehood in a society that wants everyone to partner up.