When I was around twelve years old, my mom started our official Wilson family Valentine tradition. I’ve mentioned before how much my family loved traditions – Valentines Day was no exception.
On February 1st, we would pull out a couple small heart-themed decorations, usually paired with homemade snowflakes taped to the sliding glass door in the kitchen. Among the sparse decorations was a box. A plastic canister with a lid, covered in Valentine-themed stickers, was placed in the middle of the kitchen table. Next to it would be a small notebook and a few pens.
For the next two weeks, all five of us would write a few notes to each person in our family. They had to be sweet notes, obviously, mentioning things we love about the person or something they did that we appreciated. Sometimes they were funny, or written like a poem. One time my brother took the song “Hey Brother” by Avicii and rewrote it to be a nice compliment to my mom. (It went over her head since she had never heard the song.)
On Valentines’ night, my dad came home with roses for my mom, my sister, and me. Mom made a “fancy” dinner, usually with heart-shaped quiches and brownies, atop a pink tablecloth surrounded by candles. There were always small gifts at each child’s place setting, just a small item with some of our favorite candy.
After dinner, after the heart-shaped dishes and leftover bacon-wrapped asparagus were put away (just kidding, there was never any of that left over), we opened The Box. Everyone wrote who each note was for on the outside, so that every one was handed to its proper owner before we began reading them aloud. One by one, we went around the table reading our love notes.
I don’t think I appreciated it as much when I was a kid as I do now. I still have most of those notes saved from years of reading Mom’s swirling cursive and Dad’s block-style print, Lizzie’s smiley faces and Ricky’s quirky sense of humor. As with most traditions, I used to roll my eyes at the end of dinner and say, “Do we have to do this?” I just wanted to go eat my candy! But, as with most childhood moments, I didn’t realize that reading kind words from my family to me, or hearing sweet things said about my other family members, shaped me.
I don’t ever remember a moment wondering if my family loved me, or if my parents loved each other. I saw it all the time, not just at Valentines Day. But that specific evening, every February for about 8 consecutive years, I was reminded of it so obviously.
Maybe we should try to be like that this February. There’s been so much division in the world, in our country, in our communities. Can we use this “love month” to remind those around us that they’re not alone? Can we overlook the cheesiness and commercialization of Valentines Day and “Galentines” brunch and all the other cliche things, to show care and kindness toward those around us?
I’ve talked with more people this winter about seasonal depression than any winter prior. People are hurting. Short days and long nights, gray days and bitter cold are always a sad way to begin a new year – especially after the year we just had.
I’m going to do my best to make sure the people around me know that I see them, I care about them, and they are not alone this winter. And most importantly, that God has not left them alone – that He is the Comforter Who cares for every need.
Happy love month 🙂