Valentine’s Day was always a day full of potential for me- potential for happiness or for disappointment. It all started with those boxes of Valentine’s cards you’d buy to hand out at school every year. Each box included to ‘big’ Valentine’s cards for the most special people in you life and enough smaller ones to give to each and every classmate. Each year I wondered, ‘Will anyone choose to give ME, Ashley Summer, one of their big Valentines?’ It was so exciting to open up my bag of cards and take them out one by one to see who thought I was special. But big valentines changed to other gifts as I graduated elementary school and my classmates started hitting puberty. Now instead of cards girls would get flowers, balloons, or cute stuffed animals. The school would always bring in the gifts and call out each persons name one by one. And this is where Valentine’s became less exciting for me. While I had received my share of the big valentines cards from friends before, now my name was never on the list. Some girls got one gift, some two or three. But me? I never got any. What had once been a day full of excitement became a day I felt like I would never enjoy until a boy chose to make it special for me. For all of middle and high school Valentines day became a glaring reminder of my singleness and the lack of interest being thrown in my direction. What a thing to celebrate!
When Valentine’s rolled around my freshman year of college I knew I wouldn’t be getting any secret admirer gifts. But I was at least grateful that people weren’t passing out balloons and flowers during lectures like they would have been at my high school. Luckily, most of my friends were single that first year and so we decided to try something new: galentines. I hadn’t heard of this nifty idea but fully embraced it that year. My roommate and I bought each other chocolates. She even put fake flower petals in the shape of a heart on my desk. And several of us ladies went to a cute little Italian restaurant to celebrate being friends. The owner, a kind old Italian man, sent out dessert on the house! Cheesecake and tiramisu for all of us single ladies! And although that very first galentines I still held a lot of self pity in my heart for ‘poor single me’ with not a man in sight, with each passing year I began to look forward to Valentine’s a little more. A couple years later and I even stopped calling it galentines. Because it wasn’t an alternative holiday. I was actually celebrating Valentine’s, just in a way that my current season in life allowed me to.
And here I sit, 8 years after that night in the little Italian place on Franklin Street and I love Valentine’s more than ever. I no longer feel sorry for myself for spending the day single. I actually feel kind of sad when I think about being married someday and NOT celebrating Valentine’s with my girl friends. It has become a day that I so look forward to not because of the potential for a romantic date or long awaited declaration of a man’s admiration, but rather as a chance to celebrate the love we find in friendship. To do something nice for a friend and make sure she knows that she is special- special enough that I would even give her my big valentine.
This year is a little different because of COVID. I can’t have my usual get together with the girls. We can’t go out and get free dessert for being single on the day of love. I can’t even deliver flowers or cards or chocolate because I am far away from most of them right now. But even so, I’m looking forward to sending a few messages today. To handwriting letters to the friends who have made these last 8 valentine’s the best ever. And to eating some chocolate. Because even if I bought it for myself, it still tastes great. 🙂 And though I don’t expect to receive any gifts today, it makes me happy just to think on the great moments this day has brought me. And to do something small for a few important people in my life so that they too can feel all the Valentine’s love.
What was once a day that reminded me of my singleness and left me feeling lonely has now become the day where I really am glad I am single! If you’re single and celebrating Valentine’s, I’m sending you the biggest of Valentine’s hugs today! May you find joy in celebrating those you love. And never forget- you’re worth the biggest Valentine! And feel free to send me your address if you’d like your own Valentine’s letter.