My lovely Victoria, 

   In most northern climes, February 14 is a day when almost everybody could use a little warming up. What better way to warm up than with a little romance? Maybe that’s why Valentine’s Day was invented.

   Nobody knows for sure who St. Valentine was, or why his name is on that particular date. I have my ideas about it. I think that Val (as his sweetheart called him) was a Norwegian. It’s possible his surname was Anderson, but that’s just an idea of mine, based on certain historical facts. Some think he might have been a clergyman, or perhaps a high-ranking government official. I think he was just an average country farmer – not poor, but certainly not rich, growing up with his farming family in the Norwegian countryside.

   Early in life, Val fell in love with his neighbor – well, not exactly “the girl next door,” as her family lived about five miles from his  - but it was that idea, anyway. Like Val’s, her parents were Norwegian farmers. I’m assuming that, like Val’s family, her family all looked very “Norwegian,” with light complexion and blond hair. She  - her name was Gaia - was a notable exception. Gaia  was light skinned, but her hair was chestnut – dark brown, with shadings of red – that she always wore long, reaching below her shoulders. I think she had an ancestor from southern Europe – possibly Greece, which could account for both her coloration and her name – Gaia, goddess of the earth. I think Val would have fallen for her, whatever she looked like, but the long, flowing, dark hair with a slight curl in it sealed the deal for him. He had loved her since pre-teen days. He was pretty sure she loved him just as strongly.

   I assume that Val and Gaia talked about marriage and family, but I don’t know that, for sure. Val proceeded as if it was inevitable. He bought a parcel of land about mid-way between their two families, where he built a house – not too ostentatious, but large enough for a growing family. He did all the work himself, taking extra time for personal effects that made the house uniquely their own. When it was finished, he sat down at the desk he had hand-carved, took a large sheet of paper, and spent several days painting the edges with bright birds, flowers, and hearts – all the symbols of love in early Norway. In the center of the page, he wrote out what is believed to have been the most heartfelt, emotional, and deeply romantic poem ever composed. The poem didn’t survive, so no one but Gaia and Val knew exactly what was said. (This was a real frustration to some later scholars, who – hearing that it was the greatest expression of love ever written – wanted to examine and analyze Val’s technique.  Technique? Didn’t they realize that the only way to create a poem so amazing would be to have feelings as deep and sincere as Val’s, ready to spontaneously spill out on the page as one began to write?)

   Val finished his poem on a cold and snowy February day, bundled himself in the warmest clothes he had, and walked to Gaia’s home. He presented his card to her – the first “Valentine.” He was very gratified by her response. The cold, snowy day suddenly felt a lot warmer.

   I said it was “the first” Valentine. Actually, it was the only Valentine ever written and presented. What followed was the result of an historical confusion about how Val closed his “card.” He didn’t say, “Will you be my Valentine?” What he said was, “Will you be Mrs. Valentine?” This was his presentation to his one and only lifelong true love.

   By the way, she said yes. She and Val did live “happily ever after,” and produced the start of a vigorous shoot on the Anderson family tree. Descendants spread out over the Northern Hemisphere, including some who arrived in the United States in the late 19th Century. Most Andersons had – and have – Val’s light Norwegian hair and complexion. But every second or third generation, the line produces a beautiful child with long, flowing, slightly curly, chestnut tresses – a tribute to, and reminder of, Gaia’s southern European roots. Some believe that these dark-haired Norwegian beauties carry special magic in their genes, and that those around them all seem especially blessed. I don’t know if that’s true of all of them, but it certainly is of the one dark-haired beauty I know personally.


   Valentine’s Day, 1966, isn’t anything that Val and Gaia would recognize, or relate to. Grammar school children give cards to everybody – girls and boys, alike – in their classes. Sons give Valentines to their mothers, sisters to their brothers, nephews to their aunts. It’s all good fun – just a way to say that you’re thinking about the other person.

   Of course, there’s still the romance side. Flowers, candy, stuffed animals, dates at fancy restaurants, scanty sexy sleep wear (often in red, of course, and not really meant for sleep) – all part of saying she or he is the love of your life – or, at least, of today. Like most celebrations, it can be awful for those who have nothing to celebrate – the longest day of the year! – but most love the plans and the hoped-for (and sometimes realized) rewards. Of course, the retailers of cards, candy, etc., love it the most.

    I won’t be sending a lot of cards this Valentine’s Day. Like Val himself, I just have one sweetheart, and just one card to give. In my case, it will become an annual “thank you” to my love for saying – as Gaia did, so many years before – yes, I will be your “Mrs.” Oh, I’m definitely looking forward to some of the flowers-candy-restaurant-sexy non-sleepwear aspects of the 21st century Valentine’s Day – who wouldn’t? But those are just nice, fun extras to go with a lifelong commitment of one man to one woman.

   Happy Valentine’s Day, Vic - my lovely, chestnut-tressed, magical, Norwegian beauty, who I promise to love deeply and sincerely for the rest of our lives.



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