My mother started the Valentine tradition when I was in grade school. She would make heart-shaped sugar cookies frosted white with pink ruffled frosted edges and the kids' name written in red frosting. We would pass them out on Valentines Day. Of course, they were such a fun way to celebrate that I carried on the tradition when my kids were in school. I simplified the process with just pink frosting and stickers that topped each individually wrapped cookie that said, "Happy Valentines Day!"
Fast forward to February 2015 when the Christmas tree was still in the living room at the Gifford house. All lights and decorations had been removed, but the tree was still there. The five months prior had been rough, with my oldest son, Derrill, having lost most of his dominant hand in a military explosion. I had been back and forth to San Diego to help as much as I could, and getting the tree gone was low on the priority list.
One day in February I looked at the tree and decided to get creative. I got up early in the morning, baked and frosted heart-shaped sugar cookies, and hung them on the tree. When the kids got up I told them the cookies were theirs, but they had to make a trade: a love note for each cookie they took. I had paper hearts cut out sitting beside the tree for them to write the name of the person who it was for, followed by some kind of positive, loving thought. The tree went from being laden with sugar cookies to being decorated with heart-shaped love notes.
March brought Derrill home for a few days. I believe that was when he had his hand sewn to his hip to allow the skin graft to take hold. (They were working to create the fleshy web between the thumb and what was left of his index finger.) The timing was perfect because we were able to gather together and pass out all of the love notes from the tree. We read them one by one. They made us laugh; some made us cry. When we were done, the tree was looking pretty bare, so we carried it outside and struck a match to it. It was an impressive towering inferno.
That was on Saint Patrick's Day. No corned beef for this family, just a post-valentine celebration. As a mom I was grateful for the tender love-ties we wove tighter that day. We all needed it.
Typically, Valentines Day is promoted as a love-day for couples. But I appreciate what the day can be for nurturing family ties.
And that brings my story full circle.
Recently, I was visiting with my mom about all of those sugar cookie Valentines she made, and what a great tradition that was. She told me that she was just carrying on the tradition gleaned from my former mother-in-law, Addy Gifford (Sr). It was before my mom was married, so long before I was even thought of.
The Giffords lived across the street from my grandparents, and my mom would walk over to help out and babysit when needed. One day she helped frost dozens and dozens of heart-shaped sugar cookies for the local school Valentines Day celebration. That experience began a tradition that my mom carried on and passed on to me.
Addy is turning 92 this year, and today I want to weave a love-message of gratitude and warm feelings for all the good she has gifted me. I cherish the memories I have with her.
Addy came to visit a year and a half ago and we enjoyed having tea. She played the grand piano, filling my home with beautiful music. This will now be my "Addy Teacup" to remember that special evening.
A Valentine for You ~
I am sending out Valentine love-threads to all of you who read my newsletter, to all of you who have come to Willowbrook for tea, for bike tours, for overnight stays, and especially to those of you who have come to plant and weed the chamomile field.