by Gina Caswell Kelly
Valentine’s Day is here. The day of love. The day of romance. The day of flowers. The day of …work, high school basketball and watching Gunsmoke reruns from my bed while eating Special K cereal right out of the box. Yeah. That’s more like it. I saw a meme recently that depicts my life perfectly.
Valentine’s Day Plans
Breakfast in bed
Dinner for two
Regret eating two dinners
That pretty much sums it up. Valentine’s Day, for many, is just not what Hallmark has led us to believe it should be.
When Mike Kelly was still here, he did not believe in Valentine’s Day. Not that he did not believe it existed. He just didn’t believe it existed with regards to his life. The only time I ever got a Valentine’s Day gift or even card from him was on February 14, 1975. I remember it well. We had gotten married on February 7th and were on our way home from our honeymoon. We had gone skiing in Santa Fe and then stopped off in Ruidoso for a couple of nights. We were leaving Ruidoso, and there was a little candy shop just as you were leaving town. Mike stopped in and bought “me” a box of candy for “us” to enjoy on the trip home. The first, last and only Valentine’s present I ever received from him.
Now when I was very young, in elementary school, Valentine’s Day was a day to look forward to. We would make our Valentine boxes and carefully bring them to school. We would buy Valentine’s for everyone in our class. I always felt that the Valentine’s Day class parties were way above the others in regards to snacks. There were always well decorated Valentine’s Day sugar cookies available. (Still a weakness of mine if you are shopping.)
When I entered third grade, this was the year of Mrs. Allen and Don, which would lend itself well to another essay on another day. Anyway, when I entered third grade, I had a boyfriend. His name was Steve. I thought he was the coolest kid around. So, when Valentine’s Day came around, I carefully selected just the right card for him out of the pack of thirty for the class. Apparently, he had made the same careful selection, because when I opened his card, my heart fluttered. It had a little rabbit on the front with a garden hat on, and down the side it said, “Keep this under your hat. I love you.” As if that were not enough to make my nine-year-old heart skip a beat, on the back he had written in his third grade penmanship, “It is true what the Valentine said.” Oh my stars! I immediately set about naming our children and planning our future.
It was also at this time that another young man began to make eyes at me. But let me say this, I was no third grade trollop! I was true to Steve! But Barry had designs on me. When Steve gave me an empty bottle of his mother’s cologne he had found in the trash, Barry gave me a heart shaped box of candy. When Steve offered me a pencil with his very own teeth marks included for an Easter gift, Barry gave me a large stuffed rabbit. When Barry gave me a little gold ring with a tiny pearl in the center, Steve gave me a squashed ring he had found on the back of the bus with a large plastic diamond in the center. He worked hard to straighten it out and I proudly wore it on a chain around my neck for months. I was, apparently, a very cheap date in the third grade.
As time wore on, Barry found another, we moved away from there and Steve found his one true love.
When we moved to Union, it was during the days of “going together.” Now, we did not actually go anywhere, which my daddy would remind me of often. But, you would get a note from some young man and the note would say “Will you go with me?” You would respond and the deal was set. That was all there was to it. Even Gomer’s mama and daddy shook hands on their deal! To quote the Andy Griffith Show. Days of passing notes back and forth would follow, as you would profess your eighth grade love to some young man destined to fade from your life. Valentine’s Day notes and cards, even candy would appear.
Actual real live dating would begin in high school. Now for those of you much younger than me, let me tell you about dating in the early 1970s. A young man, another one named Steve in my case, would call you on the phone. He would ask if you would like to go to the movies on Saturday night, for instance. You would say a shy yes and he would make plans to pick you up at 6:30 on Saturday evening and you would hang up and there would be no further contact until date time. I can tell you right now exactly what I wore on my first real date. It was in March of 1971. I wore a low waisted orange dress with a pleated skirt with black flowered insets in the pleats. I wore black shoes with a bit of a heel. My hair was fixed and I looked fabulous. Steve came to the door, right on time wearing black plaid western cut pants and a black shirt. Quite dashing. He came in. He talked to my mom and dad, and Daddy told him what time to have me home. We drove off toward town in his family’s Chrysler.
My heart was pounding. I had no clue what to expect. We drove to the Regal Twin. Steve bought our tickets and we took our seats. We sat through the movie, with Sammy (the owner) roaming up and down the aisles with his flashlight, bopping people on the shins if they had their feet up on the seat in front of them. It was a strict theater! We went by the Cub, which was still the A&W at that time, and got a Coke, which may or may not have actually been a Dr. Pepper, but in those days, you went to get a Coke and then decided what kind of “Coke” you were actually going to get. We drove home. Date over. It was a whole new world of freedom. Through these early dating years, as Valentine’s Days would come and go, there was always a present or two and certainly a very sweet card.
Life went on and eventually Mike Kelly entered the picture, and Valentine’s Day as I had become accustomed was over. Don’t get me wrong. He was a very thoughtful man, but gift giving was never his best quality. I remember well the year I got a saddle for Mother’s Day. It was a really nice saddle. The leather smelled so good. There was one problem. I did not have a horse. Mike Kelly had a horse. On Father’s Day that same year, Mike Kelly received the very thoughtful gift of a new lady’s bicycle, which I enjoyed as much as he enjoyed the saddle.
After receiving various small household appliances throughout the years, I sat Mike down one day and carefully explained to him this one rule. Men, you would do well to heed these words. “If it plugs in, it is not a gift.” Let me repeat that loudly for the boys in the back. “If it plugs in, it is not a gift.” Of course, if it is something the lady in question has been asking for, such as an Air Fryer or some other delight being offered on late night television, that is a different story. But just as a general rule, heed my words.
After that, we settled into a nice rhythm of him giving me jewelry items or gift certificates to my favorite stores. Life was good.
Again, life goes on and here I am, 64 years old and planning a great Valentine’s Day of work (at a job I love) high school basketball (I do love basketball) and Gunsmoke while enjoying Special K cereal right out of the box, with one hand in an arthritis wrap, and an anti-aging mask on my face. Who knows? I may even get the Chocolaty Delight variety of Special K! After all, it is Valentine’s!