Chacos: A pandemic Valentine’s Day
This bloated, overblown, consumer-driven holiday makes me abhor pink and red for the entire month of February. No matter my outward disdain, every year my family finds me sheepishly sitting at the kitchen table with a bottle of glue in one hand and glitter in the other making homemade cards anyway.
Despite my heartfelt protestations, I’m easily sucked into the bedazzlement of this gimmicky holiday and shower everyone in my path with saccharin treats and silly sentiments. This season feels more intense though. Thanks to a pandemic, my emotions are in overdrive and I’m desperate to celebrate with others again, even if it’s for a kitschy Hallmark holiday.
In simpler times, I could be found aimlessly wandering the aisles of the big box store in my heart-shaped socks leaving with enough craft supplies to single-handedly pay the mortgage of the cashier ringing me up at the checkout. I’m dazed, confused, and loaded up with thousands of paper doilies, stickers, paints, and miles of colored pipe cleaners for a holiday I don’t really care about. Everyone I’ve ever met gets a token of my affection and I do this all without my conscious consent and without much care. I’m a manufacturer’s delight with candy conversation hearts oozing from my pores all month long.
This year, however, my feelings on just about everything are magnified. Most notably, my craft addiction is off the charts with an online shopping cart filled with felt squares and sewing supplies since mid-January. I want to stitch lavender-filled hearts and wrap them in grosgrain ribbon for every teacher who has ever worked with my children.
Social solitude has me buying boxed chocolates so everyone at work can get one, including the weird guy I try hard to avoid. I even reneged on a promise with my husband to avoid nonsensical gift-giving prescribed on a random day in February. This year, I couldn’t help myself after a couple of glasses of wine. My spouse will now be the proud owner of a new camp chair, maybe because I wanted one or maybe because I’d like him to know how much he’s loved online at midnight.
What really moves me this rose-blooming season compared to those in the past is my need for human connection. Preferably, I desire in-person conversations with someone (anyone!) other than whom I gave birth to or one that I married. I miss the bygone days of inhaling cookies with co-workers in the staff room. I crave meaningful conversation over a glass of wine with girlfriends. Mostly, I yearn to see if someone has a stray chin hair that’s overdue for plucking. My emotions are so powerful right now that I may even break down and buy those mylar balloons for the neighbors and send a care package to my brother.
Surely, this Valentine’s Day feels different for my family, too. My husband and I used to laugh at our overcrowded dinner out on Feb. 14 and the overpriced flowers he scrambled to buy last minute. Our children used to trade silly cards and share homemade treats with kids in their class.
Unfortunately, the classroom parties are gone and so are the dinners out. According to my children, this February has already been overloaded with too many in-home family dinners, too many hugs, and an obscene obsession with my crafting. For now, that’s where I can safely celebrate.
In the absence of fleshy contact and casual conversation this year, if you see me wearing heart-shaped earrings sashaying in a pink sweater, it’s a smoke signal. It means I miss you and I can’t wait to connect in person someday soon. Until then, I’m going to party in my bubble smothering my family in love and chocolate.