Tuesday, February 07, 2006


The first thing wrong with Valentine's Day is that it falls at the wrong time of the year. How can one really have warm romantic inclinations during a month when a good portion of the North American hemisphere is caught up in a deep freeze?

We can blame it all on one Bishop of Spoleto, who was martyred on February 14, AD 271. If he had died in the month of May, this holiday would take on a whole new vista. Traditionally, Valentine's Day was celebrated as a lover's feast, hence the reason for restaurants offering special gastronomical banquets. Profit has nothing to do with it, of course.

So...why not switch Valentine's Day with let's say...Mother's Day, for example? I'm sure that mothers being mothers and blessed with extra-understanding qualities, wouldn't mindobserving their special day in winter. Right?

Love first touched my life at 8 years of age, although it wasn't recognized as such. My friend Tony was a year older than me and we accompanied each other to and from school. He had a great sense of humor but was not considered romantic material. It was just friendship - at least on my side, anyway.

As in many school classrooms, ours had a Valentine's box where pupils could send each other cards as tokens of friendship, or to express romantic sentiments. Sometimes the cards were signed but frequently the sender chose to remain anonymous. I received about a dozen nameless cards, which I knew were from Tony. In return for his expression of great affection, I sent him one miserable card and even then, I agonized whether or not he deserved it. At that age, it just wasn't cool to show one's feelings.

After class that Valentine's day we sat on the step at my house and compared cards. At the point when it was time for us to part, Tony suddenly and without any prior warning, bent over and kissed me on the cheek.

Horror of horrors!

A member of the opposite sex had romantic inclinations - and towards me, no less! If he were allowed to get away with the action, more kisses would follow and then what would I do? There was only one course of action to take and I didn't hesitate. I punched him in the stomach and he reacted by doubling over and groaning. Then he took off screaming in pain and headed for home. Thinking back, I was quite pleased with myself.

I immediately regretted my move but it was too late and the harm was done. Nothing was ever the same between us again. Tony didn't return phone calls and he rejected any overtures of friendship. He even took another route to school by by-pass my house.

The second time that true love struck was in high school and it was unrequited. The object of my affection or crush to be more precise, was a popular guy who was adored by half the female student population. His locker was directly opposide mine and I eagerly looked forward to class changes and lunch break, in hope of catching glimpses of him.

All my textbooks had hand-drawn hearts on the inside pages with his name and mine inter-twined. It all ended on a sad note one day toward the end of the school year, when I spotted him walking hand-in-hand with one of the most popular girls in school. They flaunted their love in front of me, even though they weren't aware of it. Time as they say, heals all wounds and I got over him during the summer break.

The "romance" was all but forgotten until a chance meeting at the airport years later, while waiting to pick up a member of the family. Walking through the gate was a vaguely familiar face and my memory was suddenly jolted back 25 years.

The eyes were the same but that was the extent of the familiarity. HIs thick, wavy hair had all but disappeared and except for his sideburns, his scalp was shiny and bald. The lack of hair emphasized a long nose that I hadn't noticed when my love for him blurred any physical imperfections.

For the first time our eyes met and I remember smiling at him. He returned the gesture, assuming perhaps that we knew each other. However, my smile was one of smug satisfaction.

Sometimes we have to wait until we're adults to fully savor the fruits of childhood romance - and a clear vision.

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