Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day Protocol--the Basics

by Frances Mae Renier (Miss Frankie)
from the Piece of Cake mysteries
by Jacklyn Brady

It's been a long time since I celebrated Valentine's Day, but here we are on February 14th, so I suppose I should acknowledge it in some way. When I was married, before my husband passed, we celebrated like a lot of married couples do, I suppose. The day wasn't exactly special and we didn't go overboard. We'd eat out sometimes and stay in others. Once in a while, he gave me flowers, but mostly he didn't. But we almost always remembered to buy each other a card.

It was a different story when I was a girl though. Back then, Valentine's Day was my favorite day of the entire school year. First came copying down the list of children in our class, a painstaking process. I didn't want to forget anyone, and I certainly didn't want to be forgotten by anyone.

Next came the all-important decision about the Valentines I would give to my classmates. Nothing too mushy, of course. I didn't want to embarrass myself. But I did want the pack to contain one or two special Valentines that I could give to one or two special boys in the class. And, of course, it also needed some particularly unmushy cards for those kids I didn't exactly consider friends. I wouldn't have dreamed of excluding anyone on purpose, but I certainly wan't going to ask that girl with the attitude to "be mine."

Equally important was the theme of the Valentine's pack. I worked hard to make sure I picked a popular cartoon every year, not the generic variety. I can't imagine much that was more embarrassing than giving out the wrong sort of Valentine on such a special day.

Every year I begged Mama to let me include a piece of candy in my Valentines, and every year she told me no. I still don't understand her reasoning. Not giving candy at Valentine's Day can have a serious negative impact on a child's social standing at school. It certainly wasn't because we couldn't afford it. That I could at least try to understand.

You can bet that when Philippe reached school age, we were the first ones in the Valentine's candy aisle every year. The best Valentines were those that came in a lumpy envelope. You know it's true.

All of those things were important, but the actual Valentine's Day box was the ultimate ingredient in the mix. One needed a box that was just the right size. Too small and the other kids would feel sorry for you. Too large and you'd appear greedy.

Decorating the box was serious business. If I was lucky, Mama would get me white and pink tissue paper to wrap the box in and paper doilies and other stickers for decoration. It took hours to get the box just right, and I remember how proud I was of my creative efforts when I took the box to school.

None of these things affect me anymore. My only child grew up and passed on, and I have no grandchildren. But if I did, you can bet I'd be in the Valentine's aisle every year, making sure they had everything they needed.

Jacklyn Brady lives on the Gulf Coast and writes the Piece of Cake Mystery series which is set in New Orleans and features cake artist and trained pastry chef, Rita Lucero. The Cakes of Monte Cristo, 6th in the Piece of Cake Mystery Series, is available at your favorite bookseller now!

Jacklyn loves to hear from readers. Connect with her on the web: Website | Facebook | Twitter

photo credit: vintage valentine greeting card, 1911 via photopin (license)
photo credit: LIFE-PRESERVER via photopin (license) 
photo credit: U Go Girl via photopin (license)
photo credit: Valentine's Box courtesy Jacklyn Brady's grandkids. 


  1. I remember those days as well. My mother never let me buy candy either.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Debby. I'm so glad to know I'm not alone!

  2. It was the same for me as well. I have pondered why not candy? But they were of the Depression Era and of shortages and can't think of the word right now. But they had to have tickets for a certain amount of stuff, like sugar. Never mind the fact that they were not as addicted to such things as we are today.

  3. We didn't give candy either. Money was short. And I don't think many of my school mates gave candy either. But we sure liked the Valentines!

  4. There must be a lot of us that did not get candy on Valentine's Day when we were young. Even now I treat myself during the year. No candy I told my husband right off, so I he buys me jewelry and a card, I do love the beautiful cards nowadays. Georgia