Valentine’s Day … A plastic rose and a flower

Published 6:45 pm Friday, February 9, 2024

Wednesday, February 14, 2024 is St. Valentine’s Day

Daddy was born on February 14, 1915, so around our house Valentine’s Day was an oxymoron.

Romantic was not a word that I associated with my daddy.

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Mama watched soap operas and her favorite soap came on at 12:30, right in the middle of Daddy’s dinner time. The soap came on with a bong and a picture of a spinning globe and Mama melted right into her kitchen chair. Daddy would gruff, fold his newspaper and go take a 15-minute nap to prepare him for an afternoon of work at the mill.

That was Daddy’s routine except for cotton ginning season. Mama said Daddy would get cranky when the first bale of cotton came in to the gin and stay that way until the last bale was ginned. So, during ginning season, we got a little relief from hopping on

Daddy’s command. Every night after all the supper dishes were washed and dried, the king of our castle would call for his pipe and his big bowl of ice cream. One of us, Mama or me, would hop up at the king’s command.

But, one day out of the year, February 14, Daddy turned a little soft around the edges. Not because it was his birthday. Not because Mama was going to bake and decorate a birthday cake for him or that he was going to handkerchiefs and neckties. But because there was something vaguely romantic about Daddy, that he usually managed to hide until just about nightfall on Valentine’s Day. Daddy would come in the kitchen with a big, red heart-shaped box of Valentine candy wrapped in cellophane with a big plastic rose on top.

He would put the candy box down on the kitchen counter and Mama would act surprised and excited. I knew she wasn’t surprised because the same thing happened every year on Valentine Day. And, I knew she really wasn’t excited either.

Those drug store Valentine candy boxes were filled mostly with dark chocolate candies with centers that tasted like toothpaste and modeling clay. One or two of the candies might have a nut inside.

Mama loved candy with nuts inside. Pecan clusters were her favorite candy.

So, she would open the box and mash piece after piece of candy hoping to find one with nuts. Mama mashed the stuffin’s out of so much candy that she could have gotten the prize if one had been given for such a thing. Daddy was right behind her, “cleaning up” the candy residue.

Mama always took the plastic flower off the candy box and pinned it on the kitchen curtain. Mama and Bubba joined me in enjoying Daddy’s birthday cake. He was too full of candy for cake.

Daddy’s mother died of a heart attack on February 13, 1965, and was buried the next day, Daddy’s birthday, Valentine’s Day. After that, there was an unspoken sadness to Valentine’s Day.

Years later, Daddy died unexpectedly on Father’s Day 1983. The next year, on Valentine’s Day, I bought Mama a red heart-shaped box of Valentine candy with a plastic rose on top. She pinned the rose on the kitchen curtain. We both cried.

The years after, I bought her pecan clusters.

Mama’s gone now. On Valentine’s Day, I put flowers at Daddy’s grave and a plastic flower on Mama’s. I think they would like that.