I’m trying to remember things I have done on Valentine’s Day … any Valentine’s Day, ever in my life. I have vague recollections of grade school Snoopy Valentine’s exchanges. In high school, we used to send each other carnations with notes on little index cards – some school fundraiser. I only ever got – and sent them to – other girls. I still have most of the cards in a scrapbooks. They say romantic things like:
“This card contains no phosphorous.”
I guess I must have done things with various boyfriends at various times, but I don’t recall. I’m pretty sure I’ve never celebrated Valentine’s Day with either of my husbands. If I did, I don’t remember, which amounts to the same thing.
I do remember one thing, though: When I was a child, I wanted a heart-shaped box of chocolates more than anything. Those boxes are magical, and the chocolates inside are the best, most special chocolates known to man. Or at least, to a seven-year-old girl, which was what I was when my grandmother indulged me in one of those boxes.
It was a treasure, and I ate the chocolates slowly and saved the box when they were gone.
I saved the box for years.
So when I grew up, and my daughter was nine, and she asked me for one of those heart-shaped boxes for Valentine’s Day, I knew what I had to do. I had to get it for her, because how many chances do you get in this life to give someone a box full of magic?
On Valentine’s Day, I surprised my little girl before school with a heart-shaped box of chocolates from Safeway, and even let her eat one right after breakfast – oh, the torture of deciding which one! And when she came home from school – another chocolate – but which chocolate? Deciding is so hard!
And after each one, the careful replacing of the heart-shaped lid.
I took the box out of her bedroom and put it into the pantry, to the side, where it would be at less risk of late-night raids by little girls or perpetually hungry dogs. She chose one chocolate every evening, or sometimes after school.
As she neared the end of the box, she stopped eating them, preferring to save the last few. They’re too special, she said. I have to save a few.
But a month or so went by and she decided that maybe she could indulge in just one more. She went to get her box, and then I heard a wail.
It was empty.
I didn’t eat them. She didn’t eat them.
The box was still intact, so the dog was off the hook.
The Departed sat there, silently, through the ruckus, as though nothing was happening.
I confronted him. He remained silent. He admitted no guilt, offering no denial, excuse, or apology.
Just mute, hostile, silence.
Taking candy from a baby, I said. For shame. Who takes candy from a baby?
I grant you, my daughter was nine at the time, but … she’s still my baby.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and I stopped in at Safeway and found the biggest heart-shaped box of chocolates they had. With a rose on the lid.
This year, the locks have been changed – and those who would steal a child’s magic no longer have the key.