It seems like an odd thing to say – that Valentine’s Day is a family tradition, but in my family, it’s true. Growing up, I never understood how anyone could dislike a day filled with chocolate and fun, but I realize now my family celebrates the holiday quite differently from most people.
My dad’s birthday is Valentine’s Day, which should give the day more than enough celebration and festiveness to knock out the regular love day woes, but it’s more than that. My parents have been married for nearly thirty years, and every year on Valentine’s Day, my dad gives my mom an epic Valentine.
They started small – popup cards in their tiny Manhattan apartment before we were born, and they’ve grown completely out of control in the years since. Using his considerable graphic design talent, dad has photoshopped mom’s face onto movie posts, book covers and newspaper articles, just to name a few. There’s a ten-foot billboard in our backyard, touting my mother’s Jersey Tomatoes (I didn’t realize until I was in my teenage years just how many breast jokes the gifts held…) four neon signs in the kitchen and two in the yard, and a tattoo of my mother as a cowgirl pinup on my dad’s arm.
It is a remarkable tradition, and has garnered quite a following in friends and family. One of the most recent Valentine was a drive-in movie marquee, with block letters that spelled out Tommy Loves Holly. He finished it in April and set it up in June.
As someone who writes about love and tells the stories of those meetings of hearts and minds and souls, how could I not love Valentine’s Day, when this tradition that has been going on a quarter of century illuminates, yet again, how much my parents love each other? I have been in an amazing relationship for three wonderful years, but Valentine’s Day – single or in love – has always been a remarkable occasion in my household. It is where a display of passion and creativity are used to say the simplest and most complicated words in the language lexicon. I love you.
My parents have had their ups and downs, two kids, two houses, too many dogs, cats and jobs to count. There have been financial and familial difficulties, and just as many successes. They have shown me what it means to work for a happy life with a person you love – and that it is work, but honest, important and rewarding work.
Because of them, I know what true love looks like. Because of them, I am able to see the truth of the love I feel for my boyfriend. These Valentines, silly and out of control as they are, are a symbol of so much love and devotion. There is a new one every year – and that’s why I love Valentine’s Day.