February 14, 1984, for Valentine’s Day my mother was waiting for me after school and had a few gifts for me, all of which made me feel special and loved. She gave me the latest People magazine issue because Michael Jackson was the featured story, a heart-shaped stuffed animal, and a baggie of Sour Powers from the corner market. I remember two things from that day: how excited I was to see the magazine and the look of happiness I saw on my mother’s face when she witnessed my joy. That was an act of love and what Valentine’s Day meant to me. I think that is why, as a teen and young adult, I did not care about receiving Valentines from boyfriends. I saw the holiday as more than just a celebration for couples. I saw it as a day to do an act of love and kindness to anyone we care for or loved.
I will not lie, once married my definition of the day changed. I looked forward to the flowers, cards, and gifts. It was not one-sided; there was a joy for me when I saw the love and appreciation for what I gave my ex-husband. Now that I am single again, I find myself contemplating what this day means for me now? The symbol for Valentine’s Day for most people is a “heart”. It is symbolic of the emotion of love. When split in half with jagged edges, the meaning turns into something else. Instead, of unicorns and rainbows, it is a bottomless abyss of pain and despair.
Some say that going through a divorce is like experiencing someone you love dying. The first time I heard that analogy, I felt the person who made the statement was being extra and dramatic. However, I get it now. It is not because I am divorced because the separation saved my life, but I think about people I have lost over the years I loved. This day reminds me of them, and I cannot say “I love you” to them. They are not around for me to smile at or hug. This day reminds me that I miss them, and that hurts.
This year Valentine’s Day is different. We are living through a pandemic that has friends and family separated. People have died, and loved ones denied the opportunity to say their last goodbyes. I have made a promise to myself. I will use this day to reach out to people to say I love them and let them know I care about them, and I want to make sure that they are okay. This day reminds me that it should not just be today. I need to do this all the time. People need me all the time, not only one day a year. So if you are reading this consider the people in your life, you may not be able to see them physically. Still, a phone call or text message can help someone who is feeling alone, hurt, or in pain remember that someone cares about them, and they are not alone now tomorrow, or the next day.