Here it was - the moment I had been waiting almost a month for.
Martha Whitehead, the newest and most sophisticated juvenile in my ninth-grade class, was standing before me with a gift wrapped in white tissue paper, hand-drawn hearts floating on its surface.
I had hoped for weeks that Martha had drawn my name to give a Valentine Day gift. I had hinted to her several times that most boys my age would love to have a bottle of Hai Karate Aftershave. Now she stood in front of me with what, from the size and shape of the box, was Hai Karate - the symbol of manhood in my James Bond-infested world.
My heart leaped as I excitedly took the wrapped gift and eagerly tore off the tissue paper to reveal that icon of my youthful aspirations - and found a jigsaw puzzle.
Obviously, for Martha, I was a super-nerd, not a super-spy. It was only the last link in a chain of Valentine's Day anxiety attacks.
Growing up in any age is hard enough, but the annual torture of Valentine exchange hides a true class struggle: hunks vs. nerds. The truth is that the tradition fills only us nerds with turmoil; the hunks worry only about having a book-bag large enough to carry their little treasures home.
Nevertheless, the final truth about childhood Valentines is that as a child we understood the real significance of this holiday better than adults.
The true value of all my cards or those cute little pink conversation hearts was not that they cost a lot, or were the most "phat" or "fab." It was simply that someone took a moment to fill out the card especially for us.
Perhaps that is why, every year, millions of parents trudge to the local store to purchase little Hannah Montana or Barbie or other packaged cards for their kids. If we think about it for just a moment, we are teaching our kids a valuable lesson of life and relationships: that no person is insignificant or without value, and we need to express that in some way to every person we encounter.
The rewards for our action far exceed the cost of a few paper cards, or even a dozen roses when we are older.
Therefore, this official day for commemorating affection is not just for boy/girlfriend - it should be for all those for whom we share affection, and not just romantically.
The mother of a fraternity brother, who encouraged me to complete college when I was at my darkest moments and fully discouraged, recently passed away. I never had the opportunity to tell her how much I appreciated her. We have all, at some time, had such a friend. While we have official days for mom and dad, no one has yet declared a "Concerned Neighbor" or "Helpful Clerk" day. Let us make sure this year that we use the opportunity given us.
Let us make Valentine's Day a day on which we can finally let those we care about realize our feelings for them. No man is an island; we all must depend on others in our lives to make it through the grudge and harrow of daily living.
The problem is that getting over-involved in the grind of day-to-day activities makes us forget to thank those gracious assistants when, perhaps, they need to hear it most - while they are sacrificing their own comfort in order to assist us.
I contemplate all of this, especially the relationship between monetary price and affection, as I wait to see my wife Lisa in her new Stella McCartney designer dress. A grateful husband bought the dress after a lot of thought about Lisa's sacrifices for love. This woman sat up night after night, sleepless, in a hospital with her sick little girl, and out of love saw a need for further sacrifice. So, she made the leap and gave up a successful career so that same child would have a caregiver.
This year's couture Valentine's Day gift will make her look fantastic for our night out on the town, and will only partially repay the sacrifices she has made for both husband and child.
So, eat your heart out, Martha Whitehead, wherever you are. And have a happy St. Valentine's Day.
Dennis Jones is a Martinez resident.
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