Friday, 26 February 2010

The Gift of Love

Deborah, my sister, made this little Stanley dog for me.

I know, I know, I missed Valentine's Day so why the look backwards?
I wanted to write on Valentine's Day, but it was on a Saturday and my husband is home only on weekends right now, so anything other than spending time with him and our daughter, Katie, is really out of the question. So since that day I have been thinking about how to fit everything in that I want to write about without boring you all to distraction. It won't be easy, the list is long.

So why should the list be long and what the heck is on the list anyway?
I had been thinking about Valentine's Day and how it is celebrated in the United States versus how it is celebrated here in the United Kingdom.
Here is is strictly a day for lovers. I discovered that my first year here when I went looking for cards to send to America to my children. No cards were found and I was told why by shop clerks.

In contrast, in the US, the day is considered a day for everyone to share love with one another.
And it begins in the home as children and carried through to school, too. Some of my oldest memories of childhood include the yearly Valentine exchange in the elementary classroom.
It begins weeks before the actual day, when the teacher distributes brown paper bags for the children to decorate. (Posh teachers get white bags now!) The use of paper doilies, crayons, and all manner of trims and embellishments were used. Naturally, your name would be quite prominent!
These were completed and tucked away until February 14th when they would be taped to the edge of your desk and everyone would have a turn at walking around the classroom to deposit little paper Valentines in the bags. Someone would bring in treats (probably the teacher) of candy and cupcakes and drinks and a party would ensue.
There was always a bit of candy in the Valentine bags, too, especially, Conversation Hearts.

It is much the same in classrooms today. The main difference is that in my youth you gave Valentines to those you wished and now you are required to give each child a card whether or not you like them. It is insurance to make certain no child is left out of the caring and love intended for the day. A nice improvement.

In high schools today, young girls get gifts of flowers, candy, soft toys, and more from their sweethearts. It is a controversial subject within the schools as many girls are left out and stigmatized for not getting things, and/or having a boyfriend. Some boys and girls give gifts to each other secretly, while some girls give gifts openly to each other. No matter what your take on this, it is still a sign of love being shared.

When my own children were little, I followed a tradition my mom had with us when we were growing up. I would have a small treat for the kids waiting for them on the dining room table, or it might have been tucked away in a lunch bag. It was always a foil-wrapped chocolate heart or the same item on a sick in the form of a lollipop. Conversation hearts and gummy hearts and wee foil choco hearts also found their way into lunch sacks along with a little Valentine, too.

Valentine's Day is a day some people refer to as a 'Hallmark made-up day' in order to get people to buy greeting cards and flowers and candy. Who knows? Maybe it is. It does rank right up there with Sweetest Day and Grandparent's Day. But the latter two are recent inventions and St. Valentine's Day has been around a long, long, time. Evidence of this is found in the intricate and beautiful Victorian Valentine's Day cards found in Ephemera shops or sales.

It would make me sad to think that we needed a reminder to show our love for each other by creating a day for it - any day, St. Valentine's Day included. I like to think that these days are just special days for love, not the only days for love. And love comes in so many packages!

My sister, Deborah made this little sewing kit for me. I adore it!
I love when I witness something loving. It is like a precious little sign that love is out there.
Last week I noticed a family having lunch next to our table in a carvery pub. It was unusual because the family had four children - something not seen too often in these days of families with only two children. The mother remained behind at the table tending to the baby in the pram and one of the youngest children. Her husband took two children with him to go and get their food.
When he returned to the table the mom and young toddler went for their dinners while the dad remained behind with the older kids. Nothing unusual here, right?
When the mom returned to the table, the rest of the family was nearly finished eating.

The mom began cutting food for the toddler as her own plate was getting colder.
By the time she had finished preparing the toddler's plate, the baby in the pram was restless and wanting his dinner.
The mom struggled with a bottle in one hand and her fork in another but only momentarily. Wordlessly, her husband appeared from the other side of the table, removed the bottle from her hand, and nodded in the direction of the place he had been seated. She swapped seats with him and proceeded to eat her lunch in peace while he proceeded to feed the baby in the pram, bottle, dinner in a dish he removed from the baby bag, et all.
It was a tender scene filled with love for one another and caring and sharing the load, so-to-speak. He wasn't asked to come and help, he just saw a need and filled it. Amazing.

It isn't perfect, but I love it just the same. A linen heart 'wallet' with lucky shamrocks.

Everyday things that are gifts of love include, an unexpected call from a friend or family member; seeing the little daffodil sprouts peeking up through the snow and dirt; a gift from a loved one made with her own hands; Jenny wren building her nest in a shelterd spot under an canopy in your garden; a cozy fire; a favourite piece of china; a hand embroidered vintage piece of linen; a warm lazy day; and so many more!

You don't need a special day to show you care - any day will do.
Go on then - share the love!