February 14th is the day we let the ones we love know the strength of our bond, that they are near and dear to us. All valentines come with a message, silly or serious, about love. A hand knit gift is the message. Each stitch speaks of our devotion. And February, still cold and frosty in most parts of the country, is a perfect month for gifting with the warm and wooly: a hat, a scarf, and the always treasured socks.
For Valentine's Day at School 18 in Troy, New York, where I went from kindergarten to 8th grade, a cardboard mailbox was decorated by the class. That's where our valentines were posted. We purchased packs of cards and envelopes, containing more than enough for every kid in our class. No child was to be left out, our teachers made sure of that. Sometimes we were overly diligent, afraid that we might have forgotten someone by accident, and quickly addressed an extra, just to be sure. We may not have understood why, or even agreed with our teacher's policies, but never once did any of us buy a special valentine for a special friend.
Before we left to go home, the valentine mail was delivered. We tucked our cards into bulging paper sacks. The party atmosphere was heightened because if those cards were emblems of anything that day, they signified on Valentine's Day, in that classroom, we were all equal: the best reader and the one who left at 2:15 for extra help. The popular kids and the outcasts.
When my own children were young, we glued, glittered, and feathered an abundance of valentines; everyone in the class was on their list, too. Just like in my school days. This fine classroom tradition of leaving no one out, of delivering expressions of caring to all, still holds a lesson for those of us who have long since graduated to the adult world.
Maybe this year, a hard year for so many, it's time for us think of Valentine's Day as an occasion to show our love for those who share the planet with us, and to put our fellow human beings in need on our Valentine's Day gift list. Maybe after you finish the adorable booties for your best friend's baby, the super warm Wool-Ease mittens for the man in your life, or perhaps some of the ever popular heart shaped potholders, you could cast on some heartfelt stitches for Warm Up America, Preemie Project, or your favorite local charity. (Check out Lion Brand's charitable knitting and crochet patterns.)
Knit for others. Make this the year to do it. Make it your Valentine's gift to yourself. Tell your loved ones to give you a present that keeps on giving: a ball of cotton for some washcloths, a skein of baby yarn for a preemie hat, or hank of worsted for an afghan square. It could come with chocolates, of course. Start working on the day of hearts, or the day after, your choice. There's no a deadline on when you must finish your community's valentine gift. Spread your cheer and good fortune. Be creative. Have fun.
I'll be making some washcloths again for my monthly charitable knitting, but February's will a bit fancier than my usual contribution, and there'll be an extra one. My valentine.