Celebrating Valentine’s Day, Part 1

I Heart You.When I was a girl, my parents originally did what parents were “supposed to do” for Valentine’s Day, they would get dressed up, hire a baby sitter, and go out to the kind of restaurant where they would never show up with the kiddos.  I’m sure that was all well and fine, but one year, we had a wicked snowstorm, and all plans of leaving the house were cancelled.  My father built a roaring fire in the fireplace; my mother put makeup on us girls; and a delicious and somewhat fancy dinner was fashioned, complete with ginger ale in champagne flutes.  After our dinner, Glenn Miller Orchestra was cued up, and we danced like breathless fools in our socks on the hardwood floors.  It was delightful.

It became a yearly event, a celebration of love among the four of us.  Dinner got fancier, and at some point Meredith and I became capable of applying the makeup ourselves, but it always kept that essence of fancy family fun.  Over those years, my parents taught me the repeated lesson that the holiday didn’t need to be about romance, just simply love.  It’s easy to get caught up in wacky romantic expectations, and there is no need for it, that’s just Hollywood.  There is love all around us all the time, and a significant other should be irrelevant to the celebration of the Valentine’s holiday.

At this stage in my life– I have a spouse.  A good one, too.  Its not fair for me to wake on February 14th expecting to be coated in rose petals– and seriously, you know that *I* would end up being the one that cleans them up, really– or for him to suddenly have gourmet skills in place and a five course dinner prepared that evening.  So there is no need for me to hope for such things, or we will all wind up with a disappointing holiday.

Let’s all pretend that it’s Valentine’s day, 2013, and by some miracle we are delivered a babysitter– available, qualified, sweet, responsible, and magically paid for….  And let’s just say I *wanted* to shave my legs….  As if I have discovered some forgotten, but unworn and completely in my size, little black dress at the back of my closet; happened to have my nails done on BOTH sets of appendages (swanky!); and somehow managed to corral two square feet of hair into some sort of appealing ‘do (really– if any of ya’ll have ideas, I’m game).  AND let’s say we had gift certificates to Le Restaurante Du Swankay, then– and only then– would I consider braving the crowds of V-day.

It’s not that I’m people-phobic or anything, its just that the whole concept of the thing– that all of these *other* people, strangers, are also out: wearing spanx and pantyhose and too much perfume; trying to force romance while waiting on cramped vinyl benches in drafty breezeways; texting the babysitter fourteen times to make sure junior is okay; all the while pretending that they don’t notice that *everyone* else is also doing the same– well, its kind of gross.  It strips all of the actual romance from the evening for me, and instead my high points end up being the fact that I don’t have to do the dishes (let’s face it, always a plus), and hoping that maybe we can stop on the way home for clearance chocolates.  Not exactly sexy.

Thinking about all of this brings me back to my original thought, I want to bring our old family tradition back, but I want to share a little.  I want to have a Valentine’s Day dinner party with a couple of other families….  the problem is, they have to ‘get’ it.  They have to see it as an evening of slightly-nicer-than-usual fun with us, celebrating the affection that happens only between true friends.   You know, rather than being fearful that at some time the lights are going to lower, Barry White is going to start up, and we are going to ask them to put their keys in the bowl.  (Sorry to disappoint if you had expectations of follow up sexy blog posts, but not going to happen.)

I guess I’m just searching to re-define the way we celebrate this holiday a little…  I want for it to feel special, like a holiday, and one about general, affectionate, love.  It would be terrible to let the day just bump by like any other.  Let’s face it, I adore pink and red, hearts and roses and chocolate… there is NO WAY this holiday is just going to eke by on my radar every year, uncelebrated.  But some amount of what I’m asking is for people to drop their romantic expectations, and just let it be fun.  That’s possible, right?

So, how do I express all of this on a dinner invitation?  I can’t be all, “Heeeey, come hang with us on Valentine’s day, ‘kay?” and expect to be understood, but I don’t want to accompany my invite with an essay, either.  I feel to keep the ‘dressed up’ feel of the event, a written, mailed, old-school invite would be the way to go, but it must be relatively concise.

And then there’s the question of which friends should be found on the invite list.  Our closest friends, Erik and Amber, are a given.  Their girls play with our boy insanely well, no one ever gets their feelings– or worse, their bodies– hurt, and we all leave the experience liking each other more.  Or, well, I haven’t polled them on it, but that’s how WE feel, and one could hope that they aren’t just suffering through our company because the dinner is too good to pass up.  (See how I still made it a complimentary thing about me?  Of course they like ME, I’m awesome!)  One can assume certain things about great friends, right?  I mean, Erik wouldn’t have spent so many hours helping us move, suffering through hours of no-fun labor just for a few slices of cold pizza if we sucked so much, right?

Truthfully, they are our closest friends, they have come through for us in very real-world ways over and over again.  Our power was out for more than a week a two Junes ago– leading up to our kid’s tragic birthday party no less– and they put us up in their cool, air-conditioned home with grace and banner hospitality.  I genuinely look forward to bumping into them at church.  And I wonder about the hole that our life would have if we did not have their company.  As we are not bajillionaires, or celebrities, or even supermodel gorgeous, they have no reason to fake it through the uncomfortable spells, and I can only believe their actions reflect their genuine feelings….   And *I* feel that they need to be celebrated for that.  We love them, but it is hard to SAY that.

So that part is easy, we will definitely include them, and I’m pretty sure they’ll understand the whole thing– they’re super-smart that way.  I think they have the same trouble getting a night out on the town that we do, so I’m pretty sure they would like an alternative way to celebrate a little holiday.  Plus I know I can count on those girls to get into the spirit and wear a tutu or two!  I just may wear mine….

As for the second family  to invite, its a bit up in the air… I definitely only want to invite two families (aside from us), as I want to buy some expensive ingredients and I have limited tables and chairs.  No compromising and lap-eating for this event!   I *do* think its important that all three families know each other well.  It’s hard to celebrate the love with a stranger, no?  We have a few mutual friends, and that gives me three very potential families for our celebration.  But of these mutual friends– one couple always does the going-out thing, and since they can, more power to them, I don’t want to uproot that.  So that leaves two other couples.  One of those couples has an RN in their midst, so planning things with them is complicated.  Its sooo worth it, but it is complicated.  Not often a given that things are going to work out and happen they way I want as a host….  usually one of the adults and no children make an appearance at our events.  That’s totally fine at a regular party, but that would be awkward at this event.  That makes me automatically discount them.  Or at least move them to the alternate position.  The remaining couple would actually be perfect, we have been friends with the husband for more than fifteen years.  That’s no small shakes!  And she’s a great compliment to him, she fits in very well to the whole friendship dynamic, so inviting them would be ideal.  Problem is, they have a one-year-old and none of us have managed to see them for longer than six minutes in that year.  I’m not adverse to the toddler, that’s not what I mean, I’m just saying, I’m not really sure they’d come.  Can’t hurt to ask, right?

My main goal for the next few days will be trying to dig up my super-cute vintage invitations and sending off a little note to our friends.  I also get to think about awesome dinner menus, so yay!  New pinterest board!  I think I will decorate the house in paper hearts and doilies, and set up two dining areas– one with real crystal and fabric linens for the adults, and something fun and interesting for the shorties.  And maybe do two separate menus of several courses, things like heart shaped pizzas and homemade fruit punch for the kids; and maybe delish savories stuffed in puff pastry and delicate vinaigrettes on spring greens for the growns….  I confess, part of the reason I have parties is because I love to PLAN them!




Feb 03, 2013 | Category: Happy Holidays! | Comments: none | Tags: , , , , ,


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