Here & there: We’ve got 362 days to reinvent Valentine’s Day

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FEATURE — The tips of three fingers on my right hand are currently stained red. The culprit? Red dye. The classic food color variation.

I know it’s not in vogue. And probably toxic. But it was all in the name of fun.

The dye is the last remnant of my morning spent with a classroom of 3rd graders making potions as part of their Valentine’s day celebration.

Together, we mixed hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and yeast, along with vinegar and baking soda. It yielded bubbly, glittery concoctions that shimmered momentarily and warm, foamy-pink messes that spilled out of the cauldrons respectively.

Of course, we didn’t call the ingredients by their proper names, or even discuss in much detail the chemical reactions happening before us. Instead, we pretended we were mixing things like “twitterpating tonic” and “infatuation powder.” And we imagined it was all happening by Cupid’s “magic.”

The kids – boys and girls – ooh’d and awed over their creations. They giggled and screamed in delight. They fingered the foam and complimented each other on jobs well done.

Then, they dumped their brews down the classroom sink, cleaned up and moved on to one of the next stations: decorating cookies, crafting hearts and passing out Valentines to each and every classmate.

The laughing and giggling continued throughout every station. If emojis could spontaneously erupt in real life, there would have been little hearts in every color floating around that room.

None of the kids are coupled – they are eight and nine, after all. None of them are in love. But they think Valentine’s Day is rad.

And they’re right. So, what’s wrong with the rest of us?

We’ve somehow let Hallmark exclusively conflate coupling with love – and anyone who doesn’t have the former can’t possibly celebrate the latter.

That’s stupid.

To live is to love. Someone. Something. Someplace. Even if you don’t celebrate it, you will mourn it when it’s gone.

Take it from my little family of five – we’ve basically earned merit badges in mourning people we love over the past few years.

First, we mourned the loss of our 23-year-old cousin/nephew, who died in a plane crash in the rugged mountains of Idaho that also claimed the lives of his fiancé, her father, her brother and sister-in-law.

Then, we mourned the losses of both my boys’ paternal grandparents within one year’s time – one expected from Alzheimer’s and one not-so-expected from pneumonia.

And, now, we are in the throes of mourning the loss of one of my son’s dear friends to suicide. The boy was barely 16.

He was smart and kind and funny. He loved the outdoors, eating good food and making people laugh. And now he’s gone.

We knew we loved him when we saw him on all those weekdays after school, around the Sunday dinner table and overnights at the cabin. We loved his wide, open smile and his eagerness to join in crazy schemes.

But we almost didn’t realize how much until he was gone.

So, why not celebrate love, in all its forms, while we can? While it’s here and now.

Love for our friends. Love for our kids’ friends. For our neighbors. For our brothers. For our sisters. And, yes, even our lovers.

We’ll have to face it all eventually.

And why not face it now like a bunch of third graders giggling and laughing over foaming love potions and heavily frosted Valentine’s cookies? We’ve got just 362 days to do it right next time.

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