By Fr. G. Corwin Stoppel
February is sometimes called the cruelest month for more reasons than the character-building weather. It’s the challenge of Valentine’s Day etiquette.
Think back for a moment Elementary teachers and their diminutive charges doted on the holiday.
Perfectly good shoeboxes got decorated into one-day mailboxes, and we dutifully signed our names to cheap cards we were expected to give to everyone in our classes. No holding back, even if we couldn’t stand each other.
We did our duty with heightened anxiety we might get a real mushy one from a classmate. Or lived in fear that our hopes for a card from one special classmate wouldn’t turn up in our box.
Valentine’s Day resulted in either teasing or misery, so it was best to get it over with soon as there was no winning.
Giving a card to our mother was easier, but in our home my sister and I were strongly encouraged — as a maternal “Now hear this: you are going to give your sister a card and you may not address it by her nickname — to exchange cards. She got the same encouraging verbal nudge.
We were given a generous bonus to our otherwise minuscule allowance, with instructions to stop in at Woolworth’s on the way home from school to get Mother a box of Whitman’s Sampler. Later, we learned it was Dad who had the sweet tooth and Mother would share her stash with him.
Funny how our attitudes changed within a decade. A card, candy and maybe something else became more fun to give and receive.
This year, however, we might as well cancel Valentine’s Day. There will not be those little heart-shaped candies with a message stamped on the front. You know, the type that taste like you are back in elementary school and just licked the chalk stick.
Those candies have been around since Grover Cleveland was President the first time around. But after decades of producing the Sweethearts and other confectionaries, things went sour for the maker last year. They went bankrupt.
The machines that turned out some 8 billion of those little candies were shut down, causing wailing, moaning and gnashing of teeth that we would never pop one in our mouths again.
Word has it that unless you bought your Sweethearts before Venetian Night in late July, you are out of luck.
Then again, perhaps you have some tucked away the freezer, hoping maybe they would age and taste better. Please don’t share them with me. Save them for someone who would truly appreciate and enjoy them.
The good news is we can celebrate Valentine’s Day next year in traditional wild abandon. Ohio-based Spangler Corp. bought the original makers, NECCO, but couldn’t get the candies out in time for this year. Not a single heart with words like “Ever After,” “My Love,”“ New Love” and so on will be available.
For those of you who love eating sugar-flavored chalk, pretend you are a Cubs Fan, and repeat, “Wait until next year.”
But a little advice: This is no excuse for not doing something special for your sweetheart, or they may be handing out Sweethearts to someone else that proclaim “New Love.”