Tag Archives: holidays

Valentine Boxes

Bless me, Father, I still do valentines for my grown up kids.  I’m five years past the classroom Valentine’s Box hoopla of hunting down a shoe box and trying to decorate it about half an hour before bedtime the night before.  The grocery store Valentines that we argued over still had to be labeled for every kid in the class–(neatly, please! You can’t even tell whose name that is!)–with protests and whining about having to give one (yes, a NICE one) to all the girls.   Doing this with my daughter was easier.  A pink girly Valentine box with stickers and hearts was just fine, but is there such a thing as a masculine Valentine box?  Something about lizards and Darth Vader just doesn’t say Valentine’s Day.  But whatever.

Valentine boxes always caused issues.  There were always the one or two kids who got all the lame valentines, the over-achieving parents who had to ALSO include candy (no nuts, gluten free) with each one, and the surprise and gossip caused by finding an extra special note from “Guess Who?” or “Secret Admirer.”  Bless the teachers on Valentine’s Day, who try to judge the best box, organize 20+ hyper first graders to put the right valentines in the right boxes, and oversee the class party with spilled red juice and way too many pink cupcakes.  They are headed straight to heaven.

Bless the parents of multiple grade schoolers who have to oversee and coordinate 40, 60, or 80 plus handwritten valentine notes and go through untold closets to find battered and torn shoe boxes.  Bless those Mother Hubbard parents whose craft cabinets are bare of glitter, stickers and glue.  Who are cleaning up said glitter and piles of sticky spilled Fun Dip and pixie sticks this very morning.  And who will, by rights, pilfer their children’s valentine candy upon their arrival home from school.  Did they learn nothing from Halloween?  Thou shalt not trust parents with chocolate.  I’m pretty sure that’s in the Bible somewhere.  I’m paraphrasing.

This morning my 17-year-old came down ready for school and tucked into breakfast with approximately zero idea that the calendar had flipped to February 14.  It’s actually kind of refreshing how un-phased he is by the date.  In late December, the aisles of Christmas decorations have barely disappeared when suddenly everything turns to red and pink.  Those chalky pastel candy hearts with the stamped messages show up:  hot stuff, QT pie, be mine.  He is happily oblivious and has been since middle school.

Not one valentine box has survived.  I can’t even track down any of the valentines either of my kids have received over the years from “yore good freind Taylor.”  Our shoe boxes inevitably got recycled into show & tell containers, book report dioramas, or a fancy house for the hapless frog that forgot to make itself scarce in the backyard.

So, although I do not miss the valentine box phase, I haven’t quite given up on the day altogether.  This morning I snuck a bag of cherry blow pops into my high school junior’s lunchbox because it is open season for trying to bribe a hug from a bristly adolescent who now towers over me.

#shameless

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At least it wasn’t a love-struck Darth Vader holding a pastel heart stamped with “hubba hubba”.  I do have standards.

Christmas Kisses

After a brisk winter storm or two in my area of the country, when the last of the tenacious rust-brown oak leaves have finally stopped clinging to the branches, a hawk-eyed hunter can usually spot clumps of mistletoe hanging high at the tops of oak trees.  I spied some myself this week, as I drove home lost in thought on a gray afternoon.

mistletoe2The uninitiated might mistake the tangled clumps for dead branches or even a squirrel’s nest, but I knew better.  When I was a teenager, our house sat on several wooded acres in middle Tennessee, God’s country.  My parents sat on the back porch in the mornings drinking coffee and watching deer, turkey, and chipmunks shuffle through the leaves in the backyard.  Somewhere towards mid-December every year, my brother or father would disappear into the woods with a shotgun in hand and return an hour or so later, pink-cheeked and smelling of the outdoors, to lay a tattered clump of mistletoe on the kitchen counter.

The only way to acquire the kissing sprig, which is actually a parasite to its host tree,  is to blast it from the treetops with a well-aimed shotgun.  Not very romantic.  What is romantic, though, is my father snapping off a twig or two and cornering my mother at the kitchen sink, her hands in the dishwater.  He’d hold the lime-green leaves above her head and lean in for a kiss, usually getting a soapy swat for his trouble.

I love many things about the holidays, but mistletoe memories rank right up there.  When my husband and I were dating, I could always count on him sending me a note at school with a tiny sprig enclosed or dipping a gloved hand into his coat pocket at an opportune moment to pull out a red-ribboned bunch.

When the kids were small, they would often sit purposefully underneath the door frame where the mistletoe hung, their not-so-subtle indication that it was high time for some snuggles.  As they grew, it became a game to see who would get caught there and have to submit, squirming, as mom planted a kiss on a grossed-out teenager’s cheek.  Through some phases of their lives, I was resigned to only getting affection under Christmas duress.

That’s the beauty of mistletoe.  It’s power to compel a kiss is an inarguable given, like midnight on New Year’s Eve or spin-the-bottle in middle school.  For the most part, unless you’re trying to escape the creeper at the annual office party or drunk Uncle Edgar (and in that case, there most definitely is the right of refusal), those innocent green branches and white berries add a little Hallmark magic to the stress of the holidays.  Even in the midst of an argument or an overdone schedule, mistletoe is the trump card.  A peace-offering.  A reminder of the things that really matter.

Real mistletoe is harder to find these days.  Maybe the countryside is receding or maybe it’s just easier for guys to click “add to cart” at Christmas instead of tramping through the cold woods in search of a bit of old-fashioned romance.  Fewer people live out in the country anymore, where you know how to dig for ginseng and can identify the scrapes on tree bark as those left by the antlers of rutting deer.  And apparently it’s not polite to blast shotguns towards the treetops in suburban neighborhoods.

I haven’t had any real mistletoe in the house in a few years.  The fake, plastic kind just isn’t the same.  Maybe that’s why I had to stop and take a picture of mistletoe-signthe far away clusters I spotted by the interstate this week.  I needed a reminder of a time when life was simpler and nothing made me happier than watching my mom and dad dance to the Christy Minstrels album in the kitchen after a soapy kiss.   Since the real thing is hard to come by, I have a little sign posted on my kitchen windowsill, right above the sink, where it’s obvious when I’m doing the dishes.

I conjure my own mistletoe, metaphorically.  There’s no sly evasion of the door frames anymore.  The teenagers receive begrudged smooches without warning, and when the husband comes in from the cold, smelling of the outdoors, it’s an opportunity to gross out the aforementioned teenagers even more.  (wink, wink*)

May your days be merry and bright!