Sunday, February 14, 2016

Faking and making

I wish we could all share in the sentiments of primary school Valentines.

When we are in primary school the beauty of its simplicity is wasted on us. Once we age past primary we might get caught up in the emotion of romantic love … mostly the complexity of it … and from there on in, the confusion or disappointment of the whole thing tends to leave a bad taste in our mouths.

Somewhere between this angst-y state of desire and whatever version of mature fulfillment we've settled into, we decide Valentine's Day is just some ridiculous notion cooked up by marketers to relieve us of our hard-earned cash.

So we dust our hands of it, darkly happy to be rid of its fakery.

That is … until our kids reach the age when paper hearts and printed confections are as exciting as the sunrise on a brand new day. Then, like it or not, our hands become soiled again in glitter and glue.

I know a lot of folks would like to see the tiny hearts of this holiday shrivel up and blow away. I'm sure at one time or another I was one of them. No thing is the same for any one of us, after all. Some of us can't be bothered, others are bothered beyond belief.

But it wasn't until I helped my kids make class-loads of valentines that I understood what I'd been missing all those years.

We'd selected a project that seemed easy enough: She'd draw pictures of each of her classmates using the class picture as a reference. Taking some advice from the internet, I drew the chins, necks and ears to make the sizes similar. She drew the hair, faces and wrote in the names.

It took us two days and a slew of do-overs until she was satisfied with the results.

In those two days we talked about each of her friends. What made them unique. What made them special.

She didn't like Isaac's nose on paper. So she erased it … made it better. More like the nose she was used to seeing on him.

Corrine's hair was all wrong. She wore it loose, not in pig tails. Erase, erase, erase. Sweep, sweep, sweep. Scratch, scratch, scratch. That's better.

She asked me how to spell "sweet" and "treat," and wondered if we could include some with the cards.

I nodded.

I could never have imagined this scene only a few years ago. I would have railed against the idea that children should be conduits-of trumped up emotion in all its lace-doily artifice. I would have wondered if maybe all this forced friendship wasn't the beginning of some soul-crushing lie.

We spend hours laboring over some sweet nothing that is destined to be tossed in the trash.

"What's the point?" We ask our selves. "It means nothing." Or maybe the opposite, it means too much.

We try to reason that we can't like everyone, so why should we pretend we can? Don't our problems as adults come from stuffing these feelings of discord so far down in our psyches that the pressure of it eventually threatens to blow a hole the size of a heart in our souls?

For whatever reason, we think this false holiday fosters the potential for dashed hopes and unrealistic dreams.

Wouldn't it be better to celebrate any one of the OTHER manufactured holidays that fall on February 14?

There would be no hard feelings over Clean Out Your Computer Day, League of Women Voters Day or Library Lovers Day. Who wouldn't go all in for National Ferris Wheel Day or Race Relations Day? Because, certainly, if there was no Valentine's Day no one would have to create a Quirky Alone Day, or National Call In Single Day.

Yet, instead of throwing Valentine's Day away, I find myself wishing we could boil it down to its purest form and bottle it.

Even if we have to pretend, liking each other seems so much better than the alternative.

No comments: