Valentine’s day was a lot more fun when I was a child. But it was a lot more work, too. I remember when we’d buy Valentine’s Day cards in bulk. They came in long folded sheets with perforated divisions. Twenty-four cards per sheet, I think. Our mother would buy several boxes. Disney themed. Veggie Tales characters. All of them printed with the obligatory “To” and “From” lines so essential to childhood communication. Classic, tasteful; Some even had shiny edges. But the glittery gaudiness did not distract us from the laborious task ahead. What seemed like 2 million of those little cards had to be filled out and sealed in envelopes to be delivered at our home school group’s Valentine’s Day party.
My brothers and I looked forward to this party with an excitement that nearly rivaled Christmas anticipation. The big event was always held at the most exhilarating venue in Cedar Rapids, Iowa-The Play Station. The Play Station was a huge indoor playground. A three story maze of large plastic tubes interspersed with large bouncy areas, lake-sized ball pits and swift, terrifying slides. We loved the Play Station, and we feared it. For every fun bouncy area there was a dark and twisting labyrinth worthy of Tolkien’s imagination.
The Play Station was not to be missed. But we had to earn our way there, to be sure. We’d receive a sheet with all our home school “classmates” names. It was a long list, and everyone on that list needed one of those charming Valentine’s cards. We worked at it like an assembly line. Someone had to carefully tear the cards out of the immense sheets. Someone had to write “The Miller Brothers” in the “From” spaces. Someone had to glue the envelope shut with a glue stick. (We went through about four glue sticks each February.) And someone then had to tape a lollipop to the outside of the envelope. It was a herculean task. It was a mind numbing task. It was torturous. But finally, 2 million cards later, we were rewarded with the greatest indoor playground experience on the planet. That’s what we did for love. That’s what we did for Valentines Day. Forget romance, it’s a day for candy and three-story playground slides.