It was somewhat of a tradition in my youth and throughout college to receive a Valentine card and a heart shaped box of Helen Elliott chocolates. The signature on the card was always the same and it was the only card my father ever signed. My mother has beautiful handwriting and was the signator on birthday cards, but Valentines were penned in my Dad's run-on scrawl, "Your Secret Admirer." I adored every piece of candy that was nestled into accordion pleated papers; caramels and chocolate covered cherries, English toffee, nut clusters and something that was a cross between a truffle and fudge. That box of candy was the highlight of February, and always welcome. Except once.
Sophomore year of college, circa 1970-something. Situated on the Ithaca college campus, tucked within the student union was The Pub. I'm still struggling to understand how The Pub was housed on campus and served alcohol when now the only bars in the student union serve salad. Let's just say without going into too much detail, that on this particular February the 13th, I had joined a castmate at The Pub. I recall circles of fruit swimming in pitchers of red wine and not much else. Oh yes, my friend Pamela arrived at some point and walked me back to my dorm through mountains of snow where Betsy was curiously waiting. Thanks, Pamela.
The very next day I was making my way to a voice lesson when I paused to check my mailbox. There was a slip indicating I had a package waiting. It could wait. Class was a group lesson and someone was singing a selection from "Oliver" which ordinarily I wouldn't have minded. That day it was torturous, every single note on the piano wreaking havoc on my throbbing head. After class, I swung by the Union to pick up my package. I tore back the corrugated box to reveal, just what someone in my current fragile state would not consider pining for; a heart shaped box of Helen Elliott chocolates. Even hundreds of miles away, my father had his finger on the pulse.
Which makes me think that on Valentine's Day I should take a minute and call my Dad. Come to think of it, he was the guy who introduced me to the concept of pie for breakfast. I should also say "thank you." For the piano lessons and the ballet lessons, and for all of the heart shaped boxes of Valentine chocolates.