I once broke up with my boyfriend two weeks before Valentine's Day. My close friend was also single and bitter at the time. We called the holiday VD Day. We said it with venom and relish.
A month or so later, I began dating my husband so I've had happy Valentine's Days for more than twenty years now.
But I won't be surprised if this year feels a bit VD Dayish.
You see, last year was our fourth or fifth year of a tradition: every Family Day weekend, we packed the kids and substantial amounts of winter gear and drove to Ottawa to celebrate Winterlude with my brother and his wife. We skated the whole length of the canal and back, laughed ourselves crazy as we tumbled down ice slides and spun on tubes nearly into the river in Hull, bought cold fresh maple syrup, lined mittens and tiny pussywillows at the Byward Market, looked at elaborate ice sculptures, froze our extremities off, ate sweet sunrise Beaver Tails and la tire until our teeth ached and our heads buzzed. We slept on the floor of their little apartment. We stayed in a hotel they arranged for us. We slept in their brand new house. We watched the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics. We laughed and we hung out.
Last year, I brought them a gift for Valentines Day: a red glass candle holder from Ten Thousand Villages. Inside the glass sat a metal canister, perforated with cut-out hearts, holding the candle so that a lit wick sent dancing hearts glowing from the core. It was really them: both sentimental and sweet.
A few weeks after our Family Day/Valentines Day/Winterlude trip, they announced their separation and my heart broke.
I've been reminded more than once that this blog is a public forum and that I should be careful whose stories I tell. I try and I'm trying here to be careful not to reopen wounds that aren't yet healed.
But my heart broke again the other day when I thought of that little lamp and I wondered what had become of it in all the upheaval. It matters so little in the grand scheme of things, but it was a reminder of a time when I thought love burned bright and really what I gave and said might only have served to scorch fingers and blind eyes.
I love my brother dearly and I love the franglais of Ottawa and the funfunfun of Winterlude but we're taking this year off from our tradition. Work intrudes and a great kids' social justice conference for our son. But I'm kind of glad, too, because it would already be different and it might be painful for all of us to try to do the same thing we can never do.
But next year I hope we'll take heart and try again.