By Lorry Myers
I don’t remember cards or flowers or gifts wrapped up with bows. I don’t recall dinner dates or weekends away or jewelry in tiny boxes. With six children, money was tight and free time just wasn’t free. This time of year, there were Valentine boxes to complete and countless little Valentines that needed licked and signed. But, the day did not slip away unnoticed. My Dad would come home with his hands behind his back. He would kiss my Mom and offer his gift like he was giving her his heart.
Which is exactly what he did.
Each year on Valentine’s Day, my mother received a heart shaped box of chocolates bought at the drugstore. It was such a frilly, silly gift from such a practical man. After all, my dad could have given his wife house shoes, or dish towels or anything that a mother of six could put to good use. Jewelry was not in the budget, flowers were here and gone, and lingerie was not even considered. So, my father’s gift said all he could afford to say.
A sweet heart for his sweetheart.
We would surround my mom as she oohed and aahed over the ribbons and lace or plastic rose that adorned my father’s heart. The box was so fancy; nothing plain or simple about giving your heart away. Mom always shared her gift; she couldn’t hide candy from six pairs of wide eyes. But there were rules to go by and go by them we did. The heart was always opened by my mother and she always got the first and last piece. After her pick, she would hold the box on her lap and offer it to us and only then, could we select a piece of candy.
There was a pecking order to the picking; oldest to youngest so I was one of the last to choose. It was a slow agonizing process because we knew once you picked and poked the back, that piece was yours. You could never put the piece back, you had to eat it no matter what. If you got coconut but wanted caramel, if you got jelly but wanted a cream, that piece of candy was still yours. Over the years we learned the shape of the pieces in the box and could judge what they held inside. Still, you were never certain and what you got was what you got. You could trade your piece, give it away but never throw it away.
Those chocolates were too special to waste.
Long after the candy was gone, my Dad’s heart would still be there. We would draw names to see who owned the box after it was empty, and the one who won knew they had a treasure. We would keep our paper dolls or broken crayons or baseball cards inside.
For the complete column, see this week’s edition of the Centralia Fireside Guard.