BE warned. This article is not for those of innocent years or of a disposition inclined toward the romantic vapor. But it will contain such emotive words (probably misspelled) as coochicoo and tiddlums, not to mention cuddlypoos and snooklesberry. It speaks of hearts and flowers (though, incidentally, I personally prefer chocolates). It speaks of love. It speaks of our kitchen.
Our kitchen might well be included in the Guinness Book of World Records. It runs along the lines of how many college students of average size but extraordinary squeezabilty can co-inhabit a phone box. But in this case, it is hearts. How many hearts can a kitchen contain?
This kitchen of ours has more hearts in it than I have yet had time to count. There are bowls decorated with friezes of hearts. There are refrigerator magnets sporting hearts. There are mobiles that are heart-shaped, or star-shaped with numerous hearts incorporated therein. There are cut-out hearts collaged to walls and cupboard doors - hearts like balloons with small pandas hanging onto their strings, hearts surmounted by tigers, hearts with cats silhouetted against them as if gazing at the moon.
There is a miniature shopping bag containing a creature of ursine aspect and the words ``kiss, kiss'' on the outside, with hearts instead of dots over the i's. Three white birds fly in the center of a red heart hanging by a thread from the ceiling; suspended over the glass of the back door is another heart in which a white duck pulls a smaller white duck in a wagon. And then there is an apron hanging on a hook. At first sight, you might think its all-over decoration consists of flowers. On second look, you see that these ``flowers'' are actually hearts - and there are hundreds of them.
``What,'' I asked nonchalantly of my spouse, ``is the meaning of all these hearts throughout our kitchen space?''
``I don't know, really,'' she replied, just as nonchalantly. ``It could be because the decor of the kitchen is red and white.''
It was not precisely the answer I had expected, but then you can't have everything.
This section is shocking and should be skipped by readers who do not wish to be disenchanted. Nevertheless, in the interests of veracity I should quote from my encyclopedia - Webster's New World, that is:
``Valentine, St. According to tradition a bishop of Terni martyred at Rome, now omitted from the calendar of saints' days as probably nonexistent. His festival was Feb. 14, but the custom of sending `valentines' to a loved one on that day seems to have arisen because the day accidentally coincided with the Roman mid-February festival of Lupercalia.''
And: ``Lupercalia. Roman festival celebrated Feb. 15. It took place at the Lupercal, the cave where Romulus and Remus were supposedly suckled by the wolf (lupus). Lupercalia included feasting, dancing and sacrificing goats....''
Over the dubious and legendary history of Romulus, Remus, and the She-Wolf, I prefer to draw a veil, except to note in passing that of all the protagonists in that somewhat grisly tale, Mrs Wolf comes out head and shoulders above everyone else.
Not forgetting what the careless sending of a Valentine's card can cause in the way of mischief (see Thomas Hardy's ``Far From the Madding Crowd''), and apart from the fact that my wife always receives at least one such card on which the heavily disguised handwriting looks suspiciously fa-miliar to me, I will admit to having dispatched, as a callow youth, one card that until recently I could hardly have mentioned without a touch of embarrassment.
I was still in school and so was the recipient. I met her at a school dance. We sang, as we danced (prompted I assume by the band), ``Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow-Wow.'' It was this significant and profoundly unromantic line that I inscribed with trembling fingers inside the card. I slipped it daringly into its envelope and then even more daringly mailed it.
I desperately hoped she would guess who had sent it. I desperately hoped she would not guess who had sent it. I desperately wished I had not sent it. I was desperately pleased that I had. For days I wondered if she had received it. For days I wondered if she had guessed who sent it.
Twenty years later, I met the mother of this schoolgirl at an adult summer school, where. I was a teacher. The girl's mother was a student.
Sitting down to lunch next to this ``student'' who knows so more about everything than I do, I found she was introducing me to her daughter. ``This is my daughter,'' said her mother, ``Lady Blank. She's visiting me at the moment. I don't suppose you have met? She has been living abroad. Sir Blank, her husband, is in the diplomatic service.''
Lady Blank looked, well, blank. She also looked scrupulously elegant. As far as I could see, she did not have a bow-wow.
``Well,'' I said, ``in fact we did meet once.''
``We did?'' she said, taking a bite of her shepherd's pie. ``When?''
``Well,'' I said, ``you were at school. And I was a school. We met at a school dance.''
``Did we?'' she said.
``Yes,'' I said. ``Now don't laugh. I sent you a Valentine's Card. I never knew if you received it.''
She popped a sprout in her mouth. ``How very nice of you,'' she said. How very diplomatic, I thought.
Last year the Times of London printed, as it usually does, a page full of Valentine's Day messages, alphabetically arranged.
Here are some of my favorites among last year's messages:
``Pickle. You always got me into one, but I love you anyway. Will you dine with me tonight?''
``Felicity. You are the best thing since sliced bread. Dave.''
``I'm told that happiness is being in love with a Welsh Woman. I think it's true. Mothy.''
``Dearest Cuddlypoos. With all my love at the start of our new life together.''
``Kissyface. Another year and it's even better. Yours forever, Buttons.''
``To Shiny. My funny Valentine. For always with my love, your wife.''
What puzzles me about such messages is that they are in, as it were, the public domain. I mean - what if Cuddlypoos turns out to be someone else with the same name? Or what if Kissyface takes another paper besides the Times? And where is the embarrassment-factor in society today, when someone will admit in a national newspaper, in shameless and full view of all prying and curious eyes, to being called Mothy? We live in a strange world.
There was, however, one message on the page that really caught my eye and held it:
``Christopher. You are my little favourite. I love you so much.''
So is there a law against taking things personally? What I'd like to say in response is this:
Snugglepot. The same to you. Meet me in the kitchen?''