The first Valentine’s Day I remember was probably in 1963. It was certainly the most spectacular. I was living in Parma, Ohio with my parents and brother. I had just gotten home from work when the door bell rang, and Mother asked me to answer it because she was cooking dinner.
I was surprised to see a man holding a large floral arrangement which he said was for Marilyn Thayer. I took the heavy, Florist Telegraph Delivery (FDT) bouquet in a small, white pedestal vase from the man and carried it to the kitchen where there was no room to set it down. My mother made a space for it in the dining room. It consisted of white carnations and feathery greens in a triangle shape, with a large red bow.
It came from Ray Erickson who was studying engineering in Atlanta at Georgia Tech. We had become acquainted two years before during football season in our senior year of high school. Over the weekend, I painted a detailed watercolor of the bouquet, so Ray could see what he had sent me.
Now, fast forward about forty-five years. My boyfriend comes by my house on Valentine’s and presents me with a gift bag. Whatever is nestled inside the pink tissue is heavy. I’m thinking chocolate. I reach in and pull out a pink something.
What was it? It was clearly a valentine with two red hearts pierced by an arrow.
It was ceramic. It looked like a purse with a red ribbon handle on each side. Maybe it was a vase, although to me it looked like a ceramic gift bag. I was in shock! What would I do with it? It was PINK!
I don’t do pink. I don’t wear pink. I don’t have pink things in my house. Pink flowers in the garden are the exception.
For a number of months the pink “object de art” sat on top of a file cabinet, and I tried to ignore it because didn’t fit anywhere in my home. It was a concrete reminder of the differences between me and my guy. He likes classy things, I’m home-spun. He likes hot and spicy, I’m butter and salt. He’s out-going, I’m shy. He likes to shake things up, I like to know what to expect.
But we both like to talk to each other, we love books and read them, we worked together as a team at the VA, and we have an interest in art—he collects it, I make it.
In 2009, when I moved my studio into my house from the apartment behind my garage, I needed something to hold a handful of markers. I had run out of old coffee cups for holding pens and pencils. That pink thing was sitting on a shelf and it was just the right size.
Last year, my love said, “I never know what to get you—your taste is so different from mine.”
Today, the pink valentine is holding some big brushes in my newly reorganized studio. It is the only valentine gift of my seventy some years that I still see every day. It reminds me of all the exciting, crazy, and caring moments I have had with this man.