Valentine’s Day brings JOY to many people, from toddlers to the elderly. To this day, I still remember decorating a shoebox at school so the other children in the class could give me a Valentine. The anticipation of opening each envelope caused butterflies to swarm in my stomach. The excitement of the day rated almost as special as Christmas and my birthday.
Holding that small bright card in my hand triggered endorphins of happiness. I counted the number of cards and checked with my friends to see how many they received. I remember the ritual as a comfort—one that gave me JOY because so many people liked me enough to give me a greeting on such a special day.
Around the time I began junior high, things changed somewhat. I no longer decorated a box and left it on my desk for classmates to fill. But, I secretly hoped that someone cared enough to give me a Valentine. In the eighth grade, my very first boyfriend gave me a card and stuffed animal. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
By the time I reached high school, a few good friends passed V greetings to me in class. In my junior year of high school, my boyfriend took me to dinner for Valentine’s Day. I was moving up in the world. He gave me a beautiful card and wrote the sought-after words inside—I love you. I thought I knew all about love by then, and marveled at the JOY I felt because someone other than my family loved me. I knew our love would last forever.
We married after high school and started a family. I knew no one in the entire world could ever love me as much as my babies did. As I look back now, however, I realize it didn’t matter whether they loved me or not—I loved them more than I had ever loved anyone. They depended on me for survival and unconditional love, and I unselfishly gave them both.
A few years after my son and daughter were born, my childhood sweetheart and I broke apart. Isn’t it funny how Valentines come and go in our lives? How the heartaches and tears surface and then disappear as we move on in our lives?
As a divorcee with a young son and daughter, I remember longing for JOY on Valentine’s Day as sadness overwhelmed me . Most of my life I had received greetings and words of affirmation this one day of the year. Now, I stood on my own two feet with all my responsibilities and realized my aloneness. My children decorated their shoeboxes and signed their names on the small cards for their classmates. Their excitement at the end of the day brought tears to my eyes—tears of JOY for their happiness and disappointment for myself.
Eventually, I met a man who knew how to choose the perfect gifts for me. In the thirty-five years we have known each other, he’s always given me a card that described his heartfelt feelings for me. The first year we were married, on Valentine’s Day, he took me for a ride in the country. A barking pack of dogs greeted us when we stopped at a home. The owner welcomed us and we followed her to the back yard. I almost leaped for JOY when a litter of Cocker Spaniel puppies ran around my feet. I had told my husband when we first met that I had always wanted a Cocker Spaniel, and he granted my wish.
We took Frisby home and introduced him to the family. My husband showered me with unselfish love that day. Throughout our years together, we have shared many a Valentine’s Day. My life has been JOYous and exciting at times. Like most couples, however, we’ve had our low points, too. We’ve raised four children, my son and daughter, his daughter, and our daughter. They have blessed us with ten grandchildren. I do believe we’ve settled into a comfortable routine, one that brings us tidbits of JOY every day.
Looking back on my past Valentine’s Days, I’ve traveled on a path of many emotions. The happy years have pleased me. The bad years made me question my direction in life at times. I must say, though, this JOYfilled period of my life is special. I’ve aged enough to know how to process my sensitivities. I’m old enough to start each day fresh and free of worries yet young enough to enJOY the excitement of each day as a child.
The mischievous side of me wonders if I should have a little Valentine fun and shake things up a bit today. The loved and content side of me says no. We’ve worked hard to get to this place of solid, unselfish love in our relationship. Now is the time to enJOY every minute and watch the world around us share the love of Valentine’s JOY.
This morning, I took my six-year-old granddaughter to my mother’s house. I watched in awe as my eighty-five-year-old mom’s eyes twinkled with JOY when she watched the child’s face. I thought of my mom’s life journey and remembered how lonely she gets at times. But, the glow on her face brought an irresistible urge to shout with JOY. She reminded me that we can find happiness and JOY each and every day—we just need to open our eyes and look around.
What recollections do you have of February 14? I hope the celebration-of-love day brings you JOY and happiness. May each day throughout the year bring you and yours the JOY of love and appreciation. Live fully, laugh often, and love continuously. Your JOY depends on it.