Valentine’s Day is supposed to be sweet: taking or leaving the romance, I’ve always appreciated it as a day where my mom gives me chocolate.
A memorable celebration of this occasion for me was in eighth grade when I’d recently been dumped by the boy I still loved over AOL Instant Messenger (actually, he had someone else do it over IM, but that’s immaterial). My friends and I all had matching T-Shirts with a Velcro strip: it came with letters so you could write your own message on the shirt. Honoring Mandy Moore (she just keeps coming up here, doesn’t she), and her track on the recent The Princess Diaries’ Soundtrack, we wrote “Stupid Cupid,” on the shirts. Armed with bags of sour conversation hearts, we spent the day throwing them at people.
You can hardly be surprised that by the time I was a freshman in college, I was reclaiming Valentine’s Day as V-Day and taking part in the Vagina Monologues. I guess, for me, the fun of it, the sweetness=girl gangs. Galentine’s Day, in the words of Leslie Knope. And, as Leslie would also appreciate, public license to eat candy all day.
As with my birthday celebration, I feared the fun would be taken out of Valentine’s Day in the absence of sugar. And as with my birthday, I decided to celebrate with a tea party, and put the fun back in.
Discovering the sweetness of the early morning sunlight while wearing a lace-trimmed, American Girl doll-style, floor-length nightgown for sleeping during the day, bringing back childhood pleasures. Arranging strawberry cream cheese sandwiches cut into hearts and rose-flavored chocolate hearts with sugar-free brownies and sage biscuits on a three-tiered plate with a heart handle. Waking up my sweetheart to the sound of the smoke alarm in the kitchen and surprising him with the spread at the dining room table. Sipping sweet rose tea during the brief hour we are both awake.
“Yet even while the formality of teatime makes it feel special, the inherent coziness and intimacy of tea makes it warm and comforting and delightful… A celebration over tea is also a reflective and deliberate celebration.”*
Even in the context of a saccharin holiday, honey on the tongue tastes pure. The Valentine I received reminded me of the honey of the heart.
A line of bees crawls toward the Shiva temple in Benares, India. Walking not flying, slowly making their way toward the beautiful blue building. Even the bees are humbled by his sweetness.**
Devotion is such intimacy. Is there anything sweeter?
*From page 58 of If Teacups Could Talk: Sharing a Cup of Kindness with Treasured Friends, by Emilie Barnes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1994. Thanks, Mom, for this sweet birthday gift book, giving me so many great tea ideas and reminding me why I’ve always loved tea parties.
**A story told by yoga teacher Josh at Body of Santa Fe.