Valentine’s Day at school was always a beacon of light in the middle of a long dreary winter. Winter break had ended long ago and spring break seemed so far away it was pointless to get excited about. We were in the daily doldrums of cold bleak winter weather, battling illness sweeping through the school, and of course, boring school work. Sheets of hand-outs and work-packets, or as my teachers called them; dittos. Dittos for us to complete math problems and practice our perfect cursive handwriting. But for one day, one day in the middle of the darkness, for at least an hour, we had Valentine’s Day.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day as a kid was great because it didn’t have the weight of adulthood attached to it. It wasn’t about love to us. We didn’t know what love was. Not romantic love anyway (at least I didn’t). It was one day when everyone got cards and candy. And the one critical choice everyone had to make that was essential to the V-Day party at school, was what card to buy.

It was always fun walking up and down the aisles of K-Mart looking and deciding what Valentines to buy that year. Transformers, G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Gummi Bears, He-Man, Inspector Gadget, Snoopy, ALF. There were so many options! But I didn’t want any of those. I wanted Garfield.

In third grade, I was a Garfield fanatic. I had about a dozen Garfield comic books, had a Garfield stuffed animal collection, and I wore a women’s Garfield nightshirt as pajamas (it was a women’s shirt because there were no Garfield pajamas in the boys section. I would not let that get in the way of my fandom!) I was obsessed (keyword being WAS)! As a socially-awkward introverted kid, how could I not love a cynical anti-social cat?

And since I couldn’t find any Garfield cards I liked at the store, my mom decided she would make them for me. I described what kind of Garfield I wanted and what it should say, and she drew them. Once we had a few different options, she made black and white copies of them and then I colored them in. We glued them on card stock and then BAM, I had some awesome homemade Valentine’s Day cards. She only did this once or twice for me, but it left such an impression that when Ellie had her first V-Day party in kindergarten I wanted to do the same for her. But Ellie, as usual, had other plans.

Ellie wanted to draw them herself. It was tough at first for my artistic-creative-type-A self to agree to this, but I let go and let her draw. She drew whatever she wanted, and I made copies (color copies, since a lot with technology happened in 30 years) and put them on cardstock. And ever since, that has been our V-Day card tradition. Chloe is in kindergarten this year, and she’s already been creating her own cards since preschool so this will be her third year with her own creation.

Both Ellie and Chloe each do two designs. One for the girls, and one for the boys. They both have a love for Hello Kitty, but they’re always very concerned that the boys won’t like it so they each come up with their own version of “what boys like.” This year for Ellie, it was Kero Kero Keroppi, and Pikachu for Chloe.

Each year, we wait until the very last minute and spend the night before like a factory as a family finalizing them. Every single year I vow to start them earlier to avoid this, but it never happens. But it’s kind of become part of the tradition and the girls seem to enjoy it for the time being. And I secretly do too.

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