My dad gave my mom a beautiful heart-shaped box of candy every year on Valentine’s Day. Big red and pink boxes with swirls of lace and wide satin ribbons.
The beautiful boxes were mesmerizing. I drooled over them. Literally. Chocolate mint truffles, caramels and raspberry-filled. The small candies tucked beneath the quilted paper liner were a beauty to behold.
Mom and Dad weren’t big gift givers with one another, but every year he bought her a box of candy for Valentine’s Day. I think he thought it was just how a guy treated his gal. And she was always his gal.
When I was growing through an awkward phase, my right leg often tripping over my left, and my left leg, in turn, tripping my right, my dad gave me a heart-shaped box of candy, too. It was a smaller version of Mom’s—a pink heart with ruffled trim and a satin ribbon.
Perhaps he thought my awkward phase would be permanent, limit possibilities down the road and it could be the only Valentine’s candy I got. It didn’t matter. Those pretty boxes made me walk a little taller, which was important for a girl who was short. I felt more confident. Like maybe I could finally do the required rope climb all the way to the ceiling in gym class. I couldn’t; but I didn’t care because I had a heart-shaped box of candy declaring I was loved.
Through grade school, middle school and high school, when Mom got a box for Valentine’s, I got a box, too. Even when I went away to college. Even when I moved cross country.
“I’m grown now, Dad. You can stop.”
Even when I married. “I have a husband who buys me candy, Dad. You can stop.”
“I know,” he said on the phone.
“I know,” Mom said, on the extension. It was a team operation and always had been.
Still the heart-shaped boxes kept coming.
Our two little girls began getting boxes, as did my sister-in-law.
“It’s time to stop!” we cried in unison.
Still the boxes came. We stashed the empties on closet shelves, in the dress-up trunk and under the beds. Dad and Mom realized too late in life that they should have invested in chocolate.
Then one year, they called and said, “We’re not sending the heart boxes anymore. We’re not going to be around forever. We’re going to stop now to get you used to that idea.”
They were funny like that. Painfully practical and to the point. A few years later they were both gone.
As for chocolate, we are well cared for by the husband who tends to us courtesy of a nearby local chocolatier.
But to this day, whenever I see a heart-shaped box with a swirl of lace and a satin ribbon, my heart swells and I pray that every little girl might have a dad, or an uncle, or a grandpa who finds a sweet way to say, “I love you.”
All our old heart-shaped boxes are gone now, but the love remains.