Love in a cold climate: What Shelter Islanders have to say about Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is the day in mid-February halfway between Christmas and Easter when we are supposed to express our feelings to the people we love. I can tell you that on the subject of Valentine’s Day, the people I asked have less to say than about any other holiday. The most common response I heard was a rejection of the notion that there is one arbitrary day when you tell people you love them. One of my oldest friends summed it up, “You shouldn’t be telling people you care about them once a year. Why not Aug. 1?”

KELCI MCINTOSH farms with her partner CRIS DIORIO, and in addition to the peppers and tomatoes and lettuces they grow all summer, she’s in charge of the flower CSA. That’s 10 weeks of locally-grown flowers that you can sign up for early in the season and enjoy throughout. I mention this because the giving and receiving of flowers is a traditional sign of love, and Kelci finds expression in the flowers she raises. 

She was also one of the few who has positive associations with Valentine’s Day from her childhood. In her home, when she woke up in the morning, there were hearts and confetti and little candies on the breakfast table. “As an adult I still receive Valentine’s Day packages from my parents, usually with 10 sets of underwear, full of confetti and a lovely card,” Kelci said.

She sees a different approach to Valentine’s Day than the traditional gift to a crush or a partner. “It can just be a gesture of sweetness,” she said. “We need to dismantle this stereotype that men need to do everything. Men deserve flowers, too! Everyone deserves flowers!”

GINA KRAUS is a believer in self-care, the practice of caring for your own mental, physical and emotional health as a way to improve your relationship with yourself and others. For her, Valentine’s Day and its emphasis on telling someone you love them is leaving out an essential step. She recommended a document called the five pillars of self-care, which former school superintendent Michael Hynes recently shared on his Facebook page. It’s a list of activities that we should all undertake. I was glad to see eating well, sleeping and stretching on the list — three of my favorites made the cut, but, alas, eating a box of chocolates was not on the list.

PAUL SHEPHERD finds Valentine’s Day fraught; full of potential sources of guilt, but also old-fashioned, weird and sweet. “Each couple’s reality determines whether the day is managed or celebrated,” he said.

Paul says it may depend on how good a person is at receiving love. “For some of us it takes a long time before we can trust love,” he admitted. For those, we suggest more eating well, sleeping and stretching is in order.

Paul remembers Valentine’s Day in grade school, when everyone in the class had to give a Valentine to everyone else, regardless of what they thought of them. “That was weird,” he said. “But it was kind of fun making them.”

JULIA WEISENBERG thinks it’s fun to make Valentine’s Day cards. “I think anyone can just buy a card but when you take time to design it, choose the stamps, ink, and love goes into it, that means more than a typical Hallmark,” Julia said. 

Over at the school, the tradition of Valentine’s Day cards exchanged by a class lives on, with an attitude that might give Kelci McIntosh hope for new kind of Valentine’s Day. To hear Julia Weisenberg’s daughter REGINA talk about it, today Valentine’s Day is more fun than weird. 

This year, Regina’s third-grade class will give each other Valentine candy with a small card. She says it’s fun, not embarrassing at all, “It’s great that girls give to girls or boys,” Regina said. “It doesn’t matter!”