DEBORAH CROMBIE: Did you know that Americans exchange more cards on Valentine's Day than on any occasion other than Christmas? Or that the first commercial valentines were sold in 1850 by an American artist and printer named Esther Howland?
What an enterprising woman! (She looked a bit like Queen
Victoria, don't you think? Maybe she needed a valentine...) Howland sold her business and retired in 1881, quite well
off. And thanks at least in part to her, in the U.S. we send valentines
to everyone, starting with making them for all our first grade class
mates. (Remember those cutout hearts and doilies? And, of course, the
candy hearts!) We send valentines to our kids, to parents, to friends.
We got this darling one from our daughter and son-in-law.
Not so in other parts of the world, however. In the UK, apparently, valentines are only meant for a sweetie--or someone you hope will be a sweetie--and are often given anonymously, even between established couples. More romantic... but maybe less fun.
REDS, do you send valentines, and to whom? Store-bought, homemade, or, gulp, e-cards?
LUCY BURDETTE: Mostly I remember the packages of store-bought valentines for school pals--"You're a great catch", "You send me into orbit"--like that. Up until the moment my dad's Alzheimer's overwhelmed him, he sent all of us kids little cards with 4-1-4 written inside. (Get it? D-a-d.) Now we send out a few, but not many, having just recovered from Christmas.
However, I am partial to Valentine's Day, as that's when John proposed some years ago with doggerel in hand. I won't make you sit through all of it, but the last line was "Honey-bunny, don't leave me in the lurch, let's go do it in the church!"
HALLIE EPHRON: What a romantic! My husband draws me a card on Valentine's Day. I've saved every one of them. I cook for him. This time it'll be a pineapple upside
down cake because it's what I've got the ingredients for... and I'm not
going out unless I have to. Even for him.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Lucy, your John puts the "dog" into doggerel.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: You had me at Honey-bunny. xoox Well, we are pitiful. We do nothing. And yikes, it was SO traumatic in grade school! Have you read about the glitter-bombs? It's apparently the latest revenge thing---there's a website that will anonymously send someone you are annoyed with a packet of glitter. They open it--and poof. And you know how difficult it is to clean up glitter. Diabolical.
RHYS BOWEN: I grew up in UK, went to a girl's school and only read about valentines when I was in college and had a real boyfriend and he sent me one. I had always longed for a secret admirer and wondered who he might be, but that never happened, alas. John and I exchange cards (I used to draw mine in the first flush of married love, Hallie) and we usually stay in and cook a really nice meal. I'm thinking lobster tail and creme brulee. These days of equality and not hurting anyone's feelings I think it's silly that the kids have to send one to the whole class.
JULIA: I'm glad to see I'm in with a bunch of non-romantics. Or at least, non-commercially-mandated romantics. Poor Ross spent years trying to do up Valentine's Day for me, chocolates, flowers, etc., and I with my frugal Scots background was always saying, "Don't give me flowers when they're expensive! Buy the chocolate the day after, when it's fifty per cent off!" It's not that I don't enjoy the sweet gestures that say "I'm thinking of you," I just don't believe they should go by the calendar. The last time Ross surprised me with an oil and fluids change it made my heart go pitty-pat. Taking the car to the garage - that's my valentine.
Oh, and yes to the kiddie valentines, which, you all realize, are mostly organized by the mothers. I have spent years writing them myself (when the kids were small), checking off the list (when they were bigger) licking and stamping envelopes closed and even - a recent development - stuffing them with candy. Glad to say that aspect of motherhood is behind me now.
DEBS: Lucy, how could you not say yes to a guy who called you "honey-bunny?" Really. So cute. Hank, we don't do anything, either. (And I think you could call glitter bombs the anti-Valentine...) I did get Rick a card a couple of weeks ago when I was at the carwash (best place to buy greeting cards) and when I paid my bill I thought they'd made a mistake. It was $5!!! For a card. It doesn't sing or dance or do anything fancy, it's just a plain old card. I was horrified. Julia, maybe I have Scots ancestors, too.
I do usually cook, hopefully something easy, and I might manage to get a Valentine's Cheesecake for Two from La Madeleine. I'm definitely not making it! Oh, and I might buy myself some tulips of they haven't run out at Trader Joe's! What an unromantic bunch we are...
READERS, tell us if you send valentines. And in the meantime, here's a big RED smoochie one from all of us here at JRW!
And a last note--Edith Maxwell is the winner of a copy of PAST CRIMES! Drop me a note with your mailing info, Edith, and I'll pass it along!