By Jane Brown
I learned to love my plain name on Valentine’s Day in second grade. Our teacher, Mrs. Gifford, had each of us bring a paper lunch bag to school that we decorated with red hearts cut out of construction paper. We had to write our name on the bag and then all the bags were taped to the wooden chalk trough that ran the length of the blackboards that filled the front and side wall of the big room.
On Valentine’s Day we all brought little cards our moms had bought at the 5 and 10 in town. Each card fit in a little white envelope. Mrs. Gifford said we had to write the name of the person we were giving it to on the envelope.
In retrospect, I think all of this was actually a lesson in writing skills. At any rate, I got the most little white envelopes. I think it was just because everyone in my class could write “Jane Brown.” “Debbie Hilaman,” as nice as could be, didn’t stand a chance.
This year, our remarkable granddaughter, Poppy Protzman, who is doing her second grade remotely, doesn’t have the chance to give her classmates those little Valentine cards. So, instead, she handmade 15 Valentine’s cards, pushed them all in an envelope and wrote on the front: “Memorial Hospital, 101 Manning Drive, Chapel Hill NC.”
She included a note to the person who opens the envelope: “Please pass these out. Many thanks. Hope you have lots of love on Valentine’s Day.” She said she didn’t sign each card so it would be a “bit of mystery” for the patient.
I know some think having a holiday for expressing love is just another commercial gimmick for selling Hallmark, chocolate and flowers. That we should be expressing love for the ones we care about every day. That would be wonderful, but I don’t think that happens as much as it should.
So, why not have a designated day when you think about all the folks you care about or even those you don’t know and tell them so? Even more important right now, a year into not getting to see or hug our friends and family.
Each year we send Valentine’s postcards to our friends. We used to send Christmas cards but when I was a professor the time to be sending Christmas cards was when I was grading final exams and term papers and preparing next semester’s syllabus. No time for Christmas cards. But late January, that works.
We send postcards rather than cards in envelopes because that’s what my growing-up family always did. My mother and father loved postcards. I think they kept every one they ever got. Their parents made albums of postcards they received, back when color pictures and travel were rare.
It wasn’t as easy back in the 1950s to make pre-printed cards. Back then you had to find a print shop, usually run by your local newspaper, provide the design, wait two weeks, and then hand address and put a 2-cent stamp on each one. Then my father would mail the batch to a post office like Bethlehem or Nazareth, PA, so the post-mark would be Christmasy, too.
This year we had a picture of our family “pod” on the front and created a graphic of our family’s motto “Do good, be nice, and have fun” for the message.
We hope these possibilities are available to you and that your Valentine’s Day is full of love.
Jane D. Brown, who writes an occasional column for The Local Reporter, was a professor in the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media for 35 years. She and her family and pets live in Lake Forest.