for all 38 years of my life valentine’s day has been a “holiday” in my family. my mom never wanted to miss an opportunity to exchange cards and presents and well, who was i to rebel against that??
we never got anything grandiose, generally a small trinket, piece of jewelry, for me, i have MANY MANY memories of getting personalized bracelets, necklaces and other various items since you can’t just go into a store and get something that says TRACI!! (well accept at Adele’s back in the day if you lived in the SFV you know what i mean, but i digress).
so every year, it has way more meaning to me than a holiday about a significant other. it’s a holiday to me that we express our love for those important to us. i love this tradition and i look forward to continuing it on with my family someday.
for 28 years of my life, my adoring papa would send (or give to me) a box of conversation hearts. ALWAYS. and they always had a nice hand-written message on them. when we didn’t see nana & papa near valentine’s day we could ALWAYS count on them arriving in the mail, shoved into an envelope with a card “for a wonderful granddaughter”, in a somewhat powdery and inedible state, but, they showed up as expected, by february 14th EVERY YEAR as far back as i can remember. he even sent them to me at my dorm in college!!!
here’s a little secret….
I HATE CONVERSATION HEARTS. HATE. and i LOVE candy!
they are adorable to look at. to make words out of. even for fun art projects, but as far as eating them, i cannot remember the last time one crossed my lips. in fact, i could go open the yellow iron memory box on my bookcase across the room from me right now and likely find YEARS worth of conversation hearts in their boxes, covered in stickers and messages to me. i cherish these. ❤
papa died in september. there were LOTS of difficult dates that year that occurred immediately following his passing. yom kippur (as he died on rosh hashanah), halloween, thanksgiving, his birthday, hanukkah, new years and then……valentine’s was on its way. i remember silently feeling nostalgic that those conversation hearts that i hated would not be coming that year. i remember being sad but not devastated or anything. it was just another sign that papa was gone.
then something magical happened. okay, not magical, but it sounds better that way!!
when i opened my mailbox sometime the week of valentine’s day that year, there was a red envelope, addressed to me, with heart stickers all over it AND A BOX OF CONVERSATION HEARTS IN IT. my mom had known how hard that would be for me and she took on the tradition. i’m not sure we’ve ever talked about what made her do that, and it’s probably a worthwhile conversation sometime this weekend. but, i remember, 10 years ago today standing in the entryway to the courtyard at the first barry avenue apartment, for those of you that can picture it, and i sobbed while holding a box of conversation hearts. i sobbed for my papa who was gone. i sobbed for the mother that i have that i don’t appreciate but took the time and the energy and the love she had for me to make sure even at TWENTY EIGHT years old i wouldn’t celebrate valentine’s day without papa’s conversation hearts.they became a “thing”. and i personally think it’s funniest for someone who never met a piece of candy she didn’t like that i don’t even open the boxes!!
i mean seriously, now they often get in the way! sometimes, i put them in a pile to throw away, and somehow, someway, they always end up back in the drawer they came out of until the next valentine’s day, when i then relegate them to a memory box.
tonight i got home from work and got my mail. i was excited to have two, not one red envelope! one from an amazing friend whom i love and adore and always seems to send a card at the perfect time (thank you kourtney! xoxo) and one from my mom with her usual “hand stamp” written all over it (apparently to keep the hearts from breaking this was what she and papa always did, to no avail i might add, but it IS the USPS after all and we ALL know my feelings about THEM!!!)
so i came upstairs to my apartment. sat with the dogs. started to unpack and change from my day, and i decided i needed to open the envelope. a GIANT no-no for my mom; you wait until the actual holiday to open a card. (don’t even ASK about hanukkah freshman year at college, HA! THAT ONE she still doesn’t know about!)
well, i rarely wait and tonight was no exception. i needed to open that card RIGHT NOW. shhhh, don’t tell, but that’s probably why i had to write this, i can’t tell my mom until tomorrow. <—-oh this makes me giggle, i’m a grown-up!!!!
so i open up my mom (& dad’s) card which was beautiful, and my mouth dropped. my stomach dropped. and a tear rolled down my cheek. in fact i’ve stopped a few times while typing this to collect myself. what a flood of emotions!!! (and i can’t even call and cry to my mom! damn her and her stupid rule!!)
my mom and dad sent me a delicious heart-shaped, for those of you that don’t know, i LOVE heart ANYTHING 24/7, 365 and have my entire life. i own more than 18 articles of clothing with hearts on them, i own more than 15 pieces of heart adorned jewelry and as i look around my room there are 8 vividly placed, easy to spot hearts. the theme of my bat mitzvah was hearts. i love hearts. so without a doubt this was a thought out purchase by my mom to give me a little something different, (that i may actually eat!) and that happens to be gorgeously wrapped as well as a starbucks gift card.
but no conversation hearts. none.
my own heart stopped. fluttered. i stared at my bed for a few minutes in disbelief. then i looked at the envelope. i just starred at it. i felt the tears welling up in my eyes and my throat start to close as i begged myself not to start crying over conversation hearts.
why do i care i didn’t get a box of candy i don’t even like?
why am i crying over something i didn’t get when what i did get was even MORE thoughtful??
this isn’t supposed to be a sad post.
there’s a lesson i learned tonight i won’t soon forget and i wanted to pass along.
i’m not sad. i’m not disappointed. i’m touched. i’m honored. i’m lucky. i’m grateful and i’m blessed to have had 28 years with a papa who took pride and put love into everything he did, and passed that onto his daughter who did the same. and for 10 years, my mom carried on that tradition she knew mattered to me. even if i’m not sure at times i knew it did.
…..and trust me, i WILL be asking why she did send them for the last 10 years and what made her stop, i’m just curious and i will share when i get those answers but because of her “rules” i can’t let the cat out of the bag until tomorrow that i know what or wasn’t in the envelope!
i hope you all walk away from this with one clear message.
no matter how big or how small the gesture is, tradition, thoughtfulness and love mean more than you may ever realize. more than anything money can buy. i have hundreds and thousands of amazing memories with my papa and so many gifts i received, including my first car!!! but there’s always been something about those conversation hearts that meant the most to me.
as you create a home, remember the traditions you want to create. remember how insignificant they can be…….and remember how 38 years later they still will mean so very much. ❤