Writing Life

Getting to Gnome You: Valentine’s Day Stories

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Remember these guys? My neighbor won them at my Book Club’s Annual DeGift & Re-Gift Party. Well, as it turns out, Lori wasn’t wild about the gnome salt & pepper shakers. And guess what? She gave them to me! And just in time for Valentine’s Day! Read on  to see what you can do to win them!

Valentine’s Day in kindergarten was simple. My teacher wore a red sweater with pink hearts on it. We ate cupcakes. And then we napped.

In 3rd grade, Valentine’s Day became a bigger production. Valentines needed to be made for every person in both sections of the grade. Forty construction paper hearts, people!

My mother brought out a the colored construction paper, handed me a pair of scissors, and I got busy cutting out small, medium and large-sized hearts for my friends.

The people I liked the best got the biggest hearts.

And since I was not stupid, I made my teachers big hearts, too.

{I needed all the brownie points I could get.}

In 1976, I was crushing hard on two boys. I took tons to time make sure both boys received double-matted cards – pink construction hearts glued on top of red construction hearts – and I carefully wrote the same note to both boys. And signed my name.

{In pen.}

Image courtesy of Antonio Rodrigues, Jr. Click to see his beautiful booklet!

I didn’t think much about signing my cards.

It was Valentine’s Day.

If ever there was a day to use the word “LOVE,” that was the day, right?

Um, wrong!

Once the cards were delivered, it was discovered I loved not just one but two boys.

That day I learned about monogamy. There were rules, and I had broken them. It didn’t matter how much Herbal Essence Shampoo I used, girls were not supposed to love two boys at once. It didn’t matter if Savallas called Mary and me on Saturday mornings to talk about Soul Train. It wasn’t okay for a girl to like two boys.

Photo courtesy of Antonio Rodrigues Jr. Click on the image to see more of his work.

In high school, the pressure around Valentine’s Day increased.

Students bought flowers for friends {and the people with whom they hoped to become more than friends} for the bargain-basement price of $1 per stem.

While I  always received a few flowers from my closest friends, the popular girls made a big show about carrying their dozens of carnations around, toting them from class to class like it was a chore. It was hard not to feel inadequate sitting next to Miss Universe over there, holding two-dozen pink and red carnations on her lap as she copied her vocabulary words off the blackboard.

And some people didn’t get any flowers at all. That had to sting.

When we were in the “I-so-want-to-impress-this-woman” phase of our relationship, Hubby made an amazing dinner at his friend Brian’s house. (Okay, maybe Brian made the dinner, but I’m sure Hubby helped). It was a long, late leisurely meal. I tried escargot for the first time. And ate filet mignon alongside a green salad. We all drank wine.

Later, I smashed an irreplaceable wine glass (hand blown in Germany and borrowed from Brian’s mother) on Brian’s floor.

Anyway, Hubby wasn’t mad at me.

{Brian’s mother probably was, but Hubby made me feel okay about being human.}

Years later, when I became a high school teacher and saw girls parading around with their carnations, I decided celebrating Valentine’s Day in school teaches students the wrong message about love.

The implication is that love is something you can buy.

That the person with the tallest pile of cards or the most flowers is the winner.

Hubby helped me unlearn that lesson.

And for that I am grateful.

Tell me about a best (or worst) Valentine’s Day memory. It can be fact or fiction or hybrid.

*If you are interested in winning those gnomes, include the word #GNOME at the end of your post! And tweet me for an extra chance to win!*

Winners will be announced on Friday 2/15, after I do all the figuring. I imagine Random Number Generator will help.

tweet me @rasjacobson

82 thoughts on “Getting to Gnome You: Valentine’s Day Stories

  1. I was insecure as a child due to abuse in my home. Valentine’s Day was special to me because of the rule of every child in class had to receive a valentine and I looked forward to the valentines I was going to receive. At least until the class bully, who had targeted me all year due to my insecurity, gave me a card. In it he wrote, “Your face looks like second base.” That was crushing because my father began his incestuous comments to me with, “You are so stupid, dumb, and ugly no man will ever want to marry you unless you put out.” This bully’s cheap comment on my valentine underscored my father’s words and cut far deeper than it ordinarily would have cut. I never forgot that valentine.
    The gnomes are sweet.

    1. See? That’s the thing with Valentine’s Day: everywhere I look I see people asking: Which do you prefer — chocolates or flowers? And the reality is we just want to be LOVED, right? You just wanted some nice words penned on a nice piece of paper. Not something that was going to make you feel like poo.

      I’m sorry about the stuff with your dad. He sounds like a piece of work.

      Glad the gnomes could bring us together.

      And by the way, this goes out to you:

  2. My best Valentine’s Day was in the fifth grade. My crush Timmy convinced his father to drive all the way across town IN A BLIZZARD up a steep hill to bring me a box of chocolates in the shape of a heart that he had bought with his paper route money and a card. We sat in our living room being shy with the adults looking on. I was thrilled with my first Valentine’s gift. My other crush, Alen, was NOT thrilled when he heard about it the next Monday in school. It was really the sweetest gesture. #GNOMES

    1. See? It’s that monogamy thing again. Torn between two lovers. Dang. Loving both of them was really breaking all the rules, wasn’t it? Great story, Maire. You are in the running for #Gnomes. Duly noted. Game on.

      Oh, and here is one for you. LOL.

  3. Hi Renee,

    My childhood memories of Valentine’s Day aren’t of a single event. Sure, I can remember the names of the girls I had crushes on, what they looked like, and whether we ended up dating or not, but none of those memories is as strong as the general feeling of queasiness that was always a part of it. Shyness is a curse. The sweating. That was the worst part.

    I’m smiling now as I recall those moments when the fate of the world seemed to hinge on whether I could muster the courage to walk across the room and say, “Hello.”

    1. I imagine there is a lot of pressure for boys on V’day. That is not to be minimized either.

      But true love is easy, don’t you think? It’s not about high drama. Why do we put so much pressure on people to play with love so young?

      Here is one for you:

  4. First: AARRRGGHHH! Why Renee, why? “Getting to Gnome You”! Now I have a damn meme of Julie Andrews singing it to the tune of “Getting to Know You”.

    Second: I was fortunate to have my wife set the bar very low early in our relationship. She said that if I felt that Valentine’s Day was the only day to express our love then something was wrong. Later she said if I ever came home of Valentines”s Day with an arm full of roses she’d think I had something to feel guilty about.

    Needless to say, the roses now arrive at anytime and for no reason.

    Now I have to get back to my meme. Sing along if you like. “Getting to gnome you. Getting to gnome all about you.”


    1. I like the idea of expressing love everyday. The other day, Hubby put together a treadmill for me. Some might say, Yeah? So what? But I thought it was super thoughtful. He knows how I was going crazy by not being able to exercise. So that investment of time really was an act of love.

      Plus it saved him $50.

      Here’s a little something for you:

  5. Best Valentine memory??? Tulips in February when I was in the hospital, wondering if I would ever go home… Tulips in February have become a tradition and take me back to that day when spring burst into my hospital room.

  6. Renee,
    I NEVER imagined you wouldn’t have been the Miss Universe girl with dozens of flowers on VDay. I sympathize. I was often (but not always) the girl with no carnations. But, one valentine’s day was very special.

    It was hands down Feb 14, 1997. My boyfriend and I went into the city for dinner and a show. We were waiting for a bus and he was acting strange – a bit preoccupied. I was tired, and getting annoyed. I asked him what was wrong and each time the answer was “nothing”. I uncharacteristically decided to drop it, maybe I was just tired and reading too much into it.

    We went to a beautiful, quaint French restaurant on the Upper East side. The food was out of this world. I remember savoring each and every bite of each and every course. I’d laugh and smile as each new luscious sensation swirled in my mouth. And my boyfriend of 3 years? He was still acting quite peculiar — and trying hard not to. I chalked it up to a bad work week.

    Then, everything became very surreal. I have to say I’m not usually the clueless sort — in fact, I’m the canary in the coal mine. I detect everything early. Except on this night.

    We had just finished eating — the main course I think– when my boyfriend suddenly stood up. I looked up at him incredulously. I was talking — midway in my sentence — and he stands up? I thought maybe he was going to go to the bathroom and as I was about to ask him, his head was below the height of the table. Now what!? I thought. Then he had one knee in the air so I just knew he had to be tying his shoe – though in the back of my mind I could’ve sworn he put on loafers.

    Then he looks up at me with these beautiful brown puppy eyes, each one glistening and full of love. Suddenly I realized he was talking to me, but the words seemed out of focus. I couldn’t understand why he was down there talking to me while tying his shoe in the middle of this amazing restaurant when the waiter was coming over for our dessert order. I remember glancing up and seeing a sea of faces looking at us, then I quickly looked down and my boyfriend was holding a small, open red box. My unfocused ears of seconds before seemed a sharp 20/20 compared to my eyes. I blinked several times, willing myself out of whatever fog I was in. Then, I saw THE most gorgeous diamond ring sparkling, casting its light like rays of love from him to me. I know I began to cry, tears of happiness. But apparently I forgot to say yes, so he had to ask me again if I’d marry him. I of course said yes, still reeling from being somewhere between a dreamlike state and this new clear reality before my eyes. We walked out of the restaurant, arm in arm, led by my outstretched hand and ring. It began to snow outside. It was magical. It was perfect. And I was engaged! #gnome

    Ps. And still happily married

  7. My worst Valentine’s Day truly turned out for the best. I had been dating this guy for 2 years and he was TROUBLE. Good girl meets bad boy. Good girl thinks she can help bad boy be good. Good girl is foolish. The story of that roller coaster is long and complicated, but in short he stood me up on what would have been our 3rd Valentine’s Day together. I was really hurt because I had stayed with him through some really tough crap, but it was a blessing. In the words of Gotye, now he’s just somebody that I used to “gnome”.

    1. Annie: You know that I, too, stayed with someone way too long. Our Valentine’s Days were rough. This song has resonance for me, too. I’m glad you figured it out and dumped his butt. I was so happy to see Gotye win at the Grammy’s the other night. Because it’s true: “You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness.” Glad we extradited ourselves in time for our lives to start. This is for you.

  8. Oh, this brings back memories … I so wanted those carnations and if I did receive one, I don’t really remember. I just know how I longed for one (or 20) to validate myself and to feel special. What a mind f**k!! I agree that this tradition sends the wrong message. And I love your wine glass story! Great post!

  9. Such an insightful, touching post, Renee. Love really isn’t something we can buy; your students are so lucky to know you.

    One year after telling my then fiance that I didn’t much care about Valentine’s Day, disliking the commercialization. He did not a thing to celebrate. I was only mildly surprised by my disappointment. I then gushed over an ice sculpture a neighbor had made for his girlfriend, fighting envious tears. My (ex) fiance later filled a heart-shaped pan full of water and presented me with an ice cube.

    1. He so didn’t get it. You didn’t need him to BUY a gift — but you wanted SOMETHING. I know that some people want the STUFF. I know a woman who likes to flick her jewelry at others, declaring with pride: “Look what my husband brought home for me for Valentine’s Day!” Meanwhile, we all know she has TOLD him a skillion times exactly what she wants. She got a good one who UNDERSTANDS what she wants.

      Meanwhile, this one goes out to your ex. He totally blew it.

  10. I don’t have any specific valentine’s day memories, but this did remind me that when I was a teenager I rarely fancied just one boy at a time, it was usually two (but not together, I hasten to add!) and one was always blond and the other was always dark haired!

  11. I was one of the girls that never had any carnations. I might have gotten 1 or 2 from friends, but it always looked pathetic compared to the popular girls and their huge bouquets from all of their many admirerers. I was a late bloomer.

    But I eventually found myself one of the most romantic men ever. Who steadfastly refuses to listen to me when I tell him NOT to buy me an expensive dozen roses every year. But I love the man, so if that’s the worse thing he does, I guess I’m pretty lucky, right? 😉

    (I’m a little frightened of what song you are gonna attach to your reply).

    1. Misty: I think it’s awesome that you have a Hubby who is willing to pay a zillion dollars on V’day to show you how much he loves you! He’s a keeper. This one is going out to him. And you! Because you are so worth it.

      1. Wow. I’m impressed. And also very disturbed. I have never actually heard that song before. So good job on that one.

        But when that man angrily told me to “come pick my roses,” I felt both threatened and a little bit violated. So, um, thanks for that? :p

  12. Those gnomes are super-cute, but gnomes in general kind of creep me out so please don’t enter my name in a contest in case they put some kind of internet hex on me. As for Valentines Day? My Hubs doesn’t believe in Hallmark created holidays so it’s always pretty lame. =)

    1. Stacie: This is the response for you. I know that the video starts off about Mother’s Day, but it quickly moves into a memory about Valentine’s Day. Stick with it. She has some “good healthy female rage” about Halmark holidays. I know you probably won’t do much for the holiday — which is fine — real love doesn’t need a special day to be commemorated with cards or chocolates or flowers because you SHOULD be demonstrating your feelings regularly. Right?

  13. Ugh, your high school memory brought me right back to those days, and how I dreaded seeing Miss Universe walk around with so much gaudy crap that I thought I really wanted. Sometimes, I still want it because my husband doesn’t give me much of it. I think if he spent one year showering me with flowers, chocolates, and other typical V Day crap, I’d probably be cured forever 🙂

    1. We all think we want the V’Day crap because that’s what we have been told we are supposed to want. We have to unlearn so many of those weird lessons that creep in. This one goes out to you — from your blogging friend {who now highlights every 6 weeks}.

  14. I never got even one of those moronic flowers. Never much of a Valentine’s day believer or celebrater (wonder why) I only ask that the husband accompanies me to get our sons annual professional portraits. My boys (4 yo and 2 yo) would love those gnomes as much as I do!

  15. I don’t think that the message is so much that you can buy love, people aren’t that easy, but that you should spend a lot of money to show them. That’s where the pressure comes in.

    1. Oh, I think the message early on is that you HAVE to DO something on a specific day of the year: that is THE day that LOVE counts. Instead of teaching kids that love is something to show all the time, we compartmentalize it into ONE DAY, and yes, that’s why there is a lot of pressure to spend a lot of money. And there shouldn’t be. If someone is showing love all the time, you really don’t need to spent anything. Hubby put together my new treadmill this weekend. Don’t tell me that wasn’t an act of love. It took hours. And he doesn’t even use it.

      Oh, and this is for you. Too easy. You’re right. People are under a lot of pressure on Valentine’s Day.

  16. Oh man I used to go crazy with the Herbal Essence shampoo. I loved it!
    Hey Renee, I noticed the link you put to my page goes to an older post. I am not too picky about it but I was just wondering if you knew that? 🙂 Thanks again for choosing my comment!

    1. Audrey! So you liked Clairol Herbal Essence. Did your hair get very excited like mine did? 😉

      And yes, I linked to an old blog post because I wanted you to see the pingback. You only see the tag if you link to a page. Now that I know you’ve seen it, I’ll change it to your regular setting! 😉 Congratulations.

      This is for you:

  17. Jeez, Renee. You’re really going loco with the embedded videos. My favorite Valentine’s Day memory involves a ten pound box of chocolates, alien invaders, Cotton Candy Bubblicious Gum and sloth spit.

    What have you got for me?

  18. Thanks for including me in your Valentines story! I remembered making those cards too, and some cute little “mailboxes” for them to go into. With paper doilies, colored paper and glitter we bedazzled our chosen shoe box. I’ve shared on all my social media love! Happy Valentine’s Day to you! XO!

    1. I remember our bedazzled shoe boxes, too. I just tried to keep this post short. Originally, I had a loooooong explanation about how we transformed the classroom into a post office, etc. But I needed to cut it. It was just TMI. I saw that you shared all over the place. Thanks, Mare. Happy Valentine’s day. Smooch. *wink*

      By the way. Did you say “Bedazzled?”

      This is for you:

  19. I did not enjoy the Valentine’s carnation sale in high school, especially freshman year. Ugh. They used to deliver them in classrooms, walking around calling out the names. Usually the same names over and over, like you said.:)
    By the way I’m totally singing Livin La Vida Loca now. Happy V day!

  20. When I was 18, my first boyfriend cut out tons of little hearts, all with individual love notes on them and stringed them together. He then hung them out in my rented room (we were staying in the same house, at college) while I was out. Sweetest thing ever.

    Now, we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day at all. Which is okay with me. Me no likey the commercialism. 🙂

    1. For us, Valentine’s Day is fabulous as it is close to the night of our first date. This year, we went to a cute hotel about an hour away and met up with some old friends, also celebrating 20 years of love. It was very romantic, and not commercial at all. Just good friends, great food, fabulous music and one night away from the real world. I hope you and the hubby show your love every day of the year. Then you don’t need a special day, you know? 😉

  21. I’m having a hard time recalling a memorable valentine’s day. nothing sticks out to me. is this good? bad? otherwise? meh, it’s okay though. what’s fun now is seeing my kids’ excitement. we do make some crafty things. for the most part though v-day comes and goes. i’m okay with that. nice getting to gnome you some more 🙂 thanks for linking with #ippp

    1. Hi Sarah! Thanks for bopping by. I love Greta’s #iPPP! I was bad about leaving comments this month as hubby took me away for V’day. I promise to sneak over and say hello this week! I’m glad you enjoy crafting with your kiddies. My son is almost 14. He is so done with that. Enjoy the little gifts while you can.

  22. Wonderful post Renee and lesson about Valentine’s Day. As you might guess, I have some contention about loving more than one person, 😉 but that’s not really the point here, right? I enjoy V-Day purely from my two kids perspective. My daughter (now 18) was so clever with her cards/gifts to me; one example: front of card reads “I got you one of those fun Valentines cards but the dog ate it. (Open card) Now when he farts, your love-hearts come out.” I will keep that card forever! LOL

  23. Valentine’s Day doesn’t really stand out in my memory. Making the Valentines and putting them in the snazzy little paper bag mailboxes that we hung in our classroom I what I remember most. One year, I dropped my paper bag as I was running for the school bus and about half of my Valentines blew away before I could retrieve them. I was so disappointed.

  24. Hmmm. V Day memory….I hated all of those girls that carried around their bouquets of stems from all the boys. SIGH. I remember when I was in high school, this guy I was dated brought me a huge bear, to my friends’ house. But I don’t even remember taking it home. Ha!

    Thanks for linking up with us! And #GNOME (those are awesome)

  25. My Valentine’s Day story is 2007, the first Valentine’s Day after we got custody of the kids. CC was in production, in the middle of “ten out of twelves” (8am to midnights) and staying in the city. He also had bronchitis. We got a bunch of snow and the kids were out of school and I was trapped with them by myself all day while they got hyped up on sugar that I bought them. I made them a special dinner that they hated. I still had to go into work and was trying to meet CC for dinner. Lack of time and energy lead us to La Paloma, a hole-in-the-wall Mexican place across from the theater that has such excellent homemade hot sauce that you ignore the dirt on the floor, and hope that the Virgin Mary shrine in the corner over the vending machine will protect you from food poisoning. I twitched, recovering from the kids, he hacked up half a lung, and we held hands and ate some pretty badass shrimp tacos. It was an oasis in the middle of the chaos that had become our lives. To this day, it’s the most romantic dinner I’ve ever had.

    1. I love picturing you and your man choosing down on those shrimp tacos. Is that place still there? La Paloma? If so, I hope you get ack there now and then. Hubby and I have a similar haunt. We visited it recently. So gross. Really. Kinda sucked the romance out of the memory. So on second thought, maybe it’s a good idea to NOT go back and just hold onto the memory. 😉

  26. Try having Valentine for a name, on this day. I hate this day always have. When I was a child, no more than 6 my mother in her infinite wisdom called our small town newspaper and said, “I have a daughter named Valentine.” They jumped at the chance to put me, with my younger brother on the front page, above the fold for Valentines Day. We were dressed ridiculously, he was holding out a big red heart to me.

    My mother, in her infinite wisdom kept that newspaper (I still have it) and showed it to both of our teachers every single spanking year. Our teachers would show it to our classes, every single Valentines Day, as if we were famous.

    Every year, my brother and I would get in fights with the school bullies because of that ridiculous picture.

    I hate Valentines Day

        1. Oh Val. That story is heart-breaking. I read it about ten times. I can see why they thought it was adorable. And I can see why you hated it. What a burden — every year. I hope you had a good day, despite the bad memory. (Above the fold, eh? Wow!)

  27. I love the way you covered the evolution of Valentine’s Days past!

    And I love Valentine’s Day now – as a mom, as a wife, and as a friend. In my younger days, pre-boyfriends, etc? Not. So. Much.

  28. That salt and pepper shaker is AWESOME!!! I had a hard time with valentine’s day this year. My son is starting to understand holidays, but I’m not sure what to do with boys. Growing up with only sisters my dad ALWAYS made sure to get us a gift and tell us we would always be his valentine. It was sweet. In the end I bought the boys a gift, and had them pick something out for their dad too

    1. Boys are tricky. My 13.5 year old is pretty done with Valentine’s Day. Which sometimes makes me sad. I used to wish my husband would model what to do more, but it isn’t really the way he shows love either — not through goofy cards or candy. He did buy me flowers this year, which I loved and I hope my son notices that, so one day he knows to do things like that for his partner. Let me know what you do with your son to teach him to show love and appreciation for others. I can use all the pointers I can get!

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