Valentine’s Day and romance are terribly mismatched. For singletons, the notion that life only works in pairs hardly inspires sentiments of love –quite the opposite in fact. Meanwhile, couples feel an inordinate pressure to be “romantic” (defined in the narrowest of terms) on command. No matter what your relationship status, Valentine’s Day plus romance is a losing equation.*
That’s why I prefer to interpret February 14th as Midwinter Crafts Day. As a kid, all I needed to celebrate Valentine's Day was a new box of crayons, a package of doilies, and some heart-shaped stickers. With these tools, I could make every kid in my class the most magnificent card and a bevy of other lacy confections.
So enthralled was I with the cupid motif, I even threw a Valentine’s Day party in third grade. I draped our walls with cut-out hearts, puffs of clouds and rainbows. (To an eight-year old in the early 80s, all things revolved around the rainbow). Mom bought me a paper centerpiece which fanned out into a 3-dimensional heart made of crepe paper. And, for my piece de resistance, I served my famous yogurt dip.
Miraculously, Jeanne saved the recipe which I found tucked into my recipe box:
Take a jar of mayo and bowl. Put in 3 scoops of mayo, then put 3 scoops of yogurt, and mix. After that put in 1 shake of garlic salt, then mix. Take a shake of dill weed and mix. Then a shake of parsley flakes and mix. Put in frig [sic] for 5 minutes.
By publishing this article, I hardly am suggesting you should try this at home. I mean, How gross does this sound???
Despite the inexplicable large amounts of leftover dip, the Valentine’s Day soiree was a success. And I am sure that my mom appreciated the midwinter diversion. When I think about it, Valentine’s Day and crafts are the perfect combination. What else can you do in the dead of winter —when the snow has lost its luster—but stay home and do something kitschy?
This affinity for midwinter crafting comes in handy when the Valentine’s/romance equation seems particularly unfair. During a bleak winter in college, when I was miserably single, I found respite with my my stepmom, Margie, who taught me how to line a basket with pink fabric. In the depths of a bad relationship in my 20s, my girlfriend and I made heart-shaped cookies, frosting them black and white.
My daughter perceives Valentine’s Day through a similar lens. A few years ago, she got a packet of horrid heart-shaped strawberry marshmallow candies, and decided they would be perfect for a Valentine’s Cake. She then decided the only person capable of such a lofty endeavor was my best friend Amy, a professionally-trained baker. As it turned out, Amy served only as sous chef. After constructing our Betty Crocker chocolate cake, my daughter pulled out the marshmallows instructing Amy to “round out the sides.” We had no idea what she meant, but as the picture shows, the results were gorgeous –if not edible.
Valentine’s 2011 is shaping into another crafting extravaganza. We’ve already created our doily/sticker confections. And the kids have been angling to make a chocolate soufflé recipe they saw on the TV monitor in a taxi cab. I have no idea how to make a soufflé (my son tells me it's easy peasy), but maybe we’ll give it a shot.
As my mother showed me many years ago, allowing kids to unleash their midwinter muse may be the best Valentine they’ll ever receive.
*Full disclosure: My husband’s most romantic gesture came on Valentine’s Day. After only two dates, he surprised me by sending flowers to my office with a shy –but genuine—note. Each year, when he repeats this act, I view it as a quiet nod to where we began. No need to cut that off, honey!