It was the first Valentine’s Day in our new neighborhood, and I wanted to impress my new friends. So I ceremoniously brought out my treasure: a bright red, heart-shaped box, filled with red and white jelly beans, candy conversation hearts, red licorice and chocolate-covered marshmallow hearts.
“Won’t your Mom get mad?” Ron asked as I took the heart-shaped lid off to reveal the tantalizing assortment of sugary goodness.
“Why would she get mad?” I asked as I popped a chocolate marshmallow into my mouth.
Ron hesitated, then took a jelly bean.
“Well, you’re getting into her Valentine candy,” he said, munching.
I was puzzled.
“This isn’t her candy,” I said as I offered the box to Ron’s twin, Don. “This is mine!”
“Yours?” Dean asked as he reached for some licorice. “You’ve got a sweetheart?”
I shot a hard look at my best friend George, who was the only person in the world who knew about my crush on Gayle. He shrugged and grabbed some conversation hearts.
“I don’t have a girlfriend,” I said with that tone of forced disgust all 9-year-old boys use when they want to act like they don’t like girls when they really do. “My dad gave this to me.”
Now it was my friends’ turn to look puzzled.
“Your dad?” Ron asked.
“Isn’t that kind of weird?” Don asked.
“I think that’s weird,” said Dean. At least, I think that’s what he said. It was kind of hard to tell with his mouth crammed full of licorice.
“Look,” said George, holding up a pink candy heart and laughing. “It says, ‘Sweet Pea.’ It’s pink and it says ‘Sweet Pea!’”
Something told me George wasn’t following the conversation.
Something told me George wasn’t following the conversation. What’s parental weirdness when compared to a pink heart with the words “Sweet Pea” on it?
“Our dad only gives candy to our mom on Valentine’s,” Ron said. “He says she’s his sweetheart.”
“Yeah, mine too,” Dean said. “That’s what everyone does.”
“‘Sweet Pea’!” George said, still laughing.
Clearly, George was not going to be much help. So I tried to explain it myself.
“My dad gives candy to my mom, too,” I said, more than a little defensively. “Only he gives her the really good stuff – you know, with the little brown wrappers in the box.”
My friends were duly impressed, so I continued: “But he gives all his kids a box of can
dy, too. He says we’re all his sweethearts.” I took another bite of chocolate and marshmallow, and added: “I don’t think that’s weird. I think that’s cool.”
My friends all helped themselves to more candy from my red, heart-shaped box.
“Yeah,” Ron said. “Cool!”
“Really cool!” said Don.
Dean didn’t say anything – he just chomped down some more licorice. And George was sitting on the floor, laughing so hard that tears were streaming down his face. Turns out the only thing funnier than a pink heart with “Sweet Pea” on it is a green heart with “Kiss Me.” Go figure.
Nearly 50 years have passed since that Valentine’s Day. Thirty-five of those years have been spent with a sweetheart of my own, and for 34 years there have been little sweethearts sharing the house with us. As long as they lived here, their Valentine’s Day began with a heart-shaped box filled with candy from their dad.
Evidently, Valentine weirdness runs in the family.