The First Valentine

When we were growing up, my sister (who is two years younger) and I (who was about four) engaged in a fixed ritual nearly every week night. We knew that at exactly 5:50 p.m. we should start walking up the block and, a few minutes later, my father would appear like magic. We could see him in the distance as he came around the corner walking the last leg of his 15 minute stroll from Long Island Railroad station.

The minute we saw him, Patti and I would break out in the fastest run we could shouting “Daddy, Daddy” until we literally careened into him, jumping and smothering him in hugs and kisses. Now my Dad didn’t like us running too much, and he liked us shouting even less, but somehow he never complained about this custom.

Valentine’s Days were especially exciting because he would come around the corner with a big chocolate heart for my Mother and smaller ones for each of us. I remember being so excited about this (and not really because of the candy, although that was good) because somehow I knew that a box of chocolate was a grown-up gift and that I—all of four or six or even fifteen—was getting one. “I’m the luckiest guy today,” he would always say, “ because I have three valentines.”

My Dad never missed bringing us a heart each year, never listening when we were in our teens and told him we wouldn’t eat the chocolate, not stopping even after we told him it was old-fashioned, even after we’d moved on to cities and spouses and families of our own, nor after he’d retired and didn’t walk home from work anymore. On Valentine’s Day he always had that little something for his three valentines.

So for all Dads out there, including my own, who gave their hearts to their daughters all those years ago, know that others may come and go but, on Valentine’s Day, we all harken back to the guy who really was—and still is–our first love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!