Happy Valentine’s Day!
I should have been born on Valentine’s Day! I’m a total sucker for this holiday!! I love the colors red and pink! I love anything trimmed in delicate lace and fancy trim! I mail out Valentines and send gifts out too… all because I just LOVE this day! This a day to say, “I love you, you mean so much to me, you’re the best, you’re a great friend or I am so grateful for you!” I start buying (and eating) fancy chocolates weeks before the big day and I bake my mom’s famous sugar cookies every year! I have tons of great memories surrounding this day of love. There are three things I will never, ever forget about Valentine’s Day.
About a week or so before Valentine’s Day, my mother would grab an old, shoe box from her closet. Then she would bring to the table, white, paper doilies, red tissue paper, all kinds of leftover scraps of ribbon and material and maybe a handful of fancy stickers. I always wanted to cover every, square inch of my box. I studied the collection of ribbon, sequins, stickers and lace, she offered. But mom would gently say, “less is more, Amy. Let’s keep it pretty and classy.” I would glare back at her, “but I want it to be covered mom!” She would shoot a quick glance back at me and sarcastically reply, “okay, so you want it to be gaudy!?” With big eyes and a wide smile, I would proudly declare, “I sure do!” Mom gave a crooked (scared-kinda) smile. Despite her high hopes for a beautiful box, she let me do it my way. Every year of elementary school on Valentine’s Day, I would show up dressed in red and wearing a big smile on my face. I would proudly carry in with me, my gaudy, over-decorated shoe box. It was great. I loved it. I wish I had a picture of an old box to share with you! The one here, isn’t mine!! It’s way too simple! Use your imagination to picture my trashy version of a “Valentine Mail Box!”
Another Valentine memory I have (and still treasure) is baking sugar cookies with my mom. Now my mother really didn’t like us kids in the kitchen. She was old-school and possessed the philosophy, “keep the kids outta the kitchen!” When I grew up, the kitchen and breakfast areas were separated by a pass-through counter/bar opening. Mom would invite us to “watch” her bake. We would sit on tall chairs and peer through the pass through with excitement. We wanted so badly to be in that kitchen, wearing that apron. After a while, we became bored with this set up. We wanted to be in there with her mixing, stirring and crackin’ the eggs. She didn’t. So she would bribe us. “Whoever is the best watcher, will get to lick the spoon!” My sister and I would straighten up real quick! We both wanted that spoon! Mom would always give us lots of spoons or the mixer blades to lick while we watched her, all in hopes of keeping us at bay. The bribing didn’t last too long though. As we grew up, we took over and started baking with her.
In effort to bake her famous sugar cookies, every year Mom pulled out her Lafayette Junior League cookbook, “Talk About Good!” (It’s a classic- you should get it! ) She would make the dough and then refrigerate it. The next day, she would take it out and pinch off a small amount and roll the dough out with her rolling pin. She used heart-shaped cookie cutters (which I inherited). Some were big, some were small, and some had sweet, scalloped edging. Mom would add sprinkles to the cookies just before they went into the oven. But, as you might guess, just a few sprinkles were never enough for me. I wanted to ice my cookies and add gobs and gobs of sprinkles. Again, I would be gently told, “less is more, Amy. Let’s keep them pretty and classy.” I didn’t listen. My cookies were always too sweet to even eat! Furthermore, they were too heavy to even hold because of all the icing and sprinkles! As the years went on, we grew up and moved away. I married and had children- two, that turned out to be JUST LIKE ME! So roles reversed. I repeated with my little ones what my mom had done with me, except that I welcomed them into the kitchen as soon as they could walk! By that time, in addition to the cookies the kids and I made together, I began baking a couple extra batches of sugar cookies each year. I would add ” just a few sprinkles on top,” before popping them into the oven. Then, I would pack them up in a “pretty and classy” container and take them to my mother. I did this every year up. When we lived far apart, I mailed her, her cookies! I did this until she went to heaven. She was my Valentine. I love that my mother and I shared this memory.
On Valentine’s morning when I was a child, we were always given a little “something special.” I’m sure we were given a lot of neat things, but ONE gift in particular, stands out among the rest! It was the year I was in Mr. Shanley’s fourth grade class at North Oaks Elementary. When we woke up, we each found a gift box. Mine was wrapped in paper that had hearts all over it. Whatever was inside was neatly wrapped in pink tissue paper. I ripped through my paper and found the most sophisticated thing EVER! A red, camp style plaid button down shirt was staring back at me. I sat like, “hmmmmm.” The shirt was unbuttoned half way down, exposing something red inside the shirt. I pulled the red item out and to my great delight, I found a bright, red, elastic, tube top!!! I thought I had died and gone to Heaven! “A tube top!!? I shouted! “Oh my gosh, it’s just like Sandy’s, except hers was black!!” The movie GREASE was all the rage at that time. It was the 70’s ya’ll! I put that tube top on faster than you could blink an eye! I strutted around the house like I was hot stuff! Of course I absolutely didn’t want to wear the plaid button down over it- I wanted everyone to see my “Sandy Tube Top!” But, I’m sure you can guess what my mother told me. “Put the plaid shirt on Amy. Let’s keep it pretty and classy.”
This Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to grab a shoebox from your own closet! Cover it with anything you can find that you love and makes you happy! Leave an opening in the top of your box so your family can put love notes in there for you to read!! Then, make some homemade cookie dough! Make sure you lick the spoon several times! When you roll out the dough, use heart-shaped cookie-cutters! For my mom, add a few sprinkles on top before baking! But for me, make another batch that are smothered in icing! Then, spread the LOVE!! Give a plateful of beautifully decorated cookies to someone near by! Lastly, go put on your favorite, sassiest top and channel your inner-Sandy! Life is short, so live it up! But choose that top wisely sister, because, “less is more” and for my mother, we should all “keep it pretty and classy.”
Happy Valentine’s Day!