It is the opinion of some St. Valentine's Day is the most overrated of all holidays. While disputing this view, one is more than willing to concede it is by far the most overcharged.
Whether being roses which quadruple in price during as many days, boxed chocolates with ambiguous expiration dates, or suspicions Tiffany & Co. adds an undisclosed cost for exchanging white satin ribbons for red ties upon blue boxes — there can be little doubt the festivities are more often measured in money than sincere gestures.
Still…there are other means by which to memorialize this celebration of romance.
My favorite commemoration is to recall its origin; when authorities of ancient Rome outlawed marriages, believing any allegiance higher than the state was treasonous.
One lowly priest defied this dictate by solemnizing bonds in secret until such time he was discovered and imprisoned. That man of the cloth was duly tried and sentenced to execution in the Coliseum, which was not an immediate fate.
Congregated with other Christians underneath the behemoth awaiting their demise he met and fell in love with a young maiden. Theirs was obviously a brief romance, lasting but days.
Yet eventually the name of Valentinus was called to be led before the masses. In a final gesture he slipped a small note to his lover which read, "Whatever comes, you must not fear, as I shall always be your Valentine.”
In reply to those who caution this may be an apocryphal story, most histories we tell have little more basis in fact. Thus if we are to regale ourselves by choosing tales let us at least choose those which are beautiful.
While overpowering emotions might be easily dismissed by the feint of heart more is the pity to them.
When the ultimate moment comes it is not the flowers or the pleasures or the trifles of which most will be thinking…
Once Nikolai Rezanov, brave Russian explorer of Alaska, arrived in California he became enamored of the daughter of its Spanish Commandante. Such was his ardor he rushed to St. Petersburg to gain consent for their marriage. A fall from his horse during this journey resulted in his loss, but after five years of waiting Concepción (who later entered a convent) was informed, "His last words were of you.”
At the death of Napoleon the finishing sounds were recorded as being, "France, armée, Joséphine…” For her part, when Josephine learned her paramour would never forgive her abuses she slipped into a deep depression leading to a pneumonia which ended her life. Unable to come to terms with her crime against Love on her own deathbed she uttered, "Bonaparte…Elba…the King of Rome”.
James K. Polk, 11th President of the United States exclaimed to his wife as he slipped away, "I love you Sarah. For all eternity, I love you”.
When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, famous and wealthy from his character Sherlock Holmes, collapsed in his garden at seventy-one he did so clutching his chest and saying to his spouse, "You are wonderful”.
Likewise, a dying T. S. Eliot (whose The Waste Land still lives) whispered the name of his partner "Valerie” as he departed.
Australian composer Percy Grainger on his deathbed turned to his wife Ella to say, "You're the only one I like”.
Tough-guy football coach Vince Lombardi found that winning wasn't quite the only thing. His farewell message, spoken to his companion Marie, was "Happy Anniversary, I love you”.
New York Yankee Joe DiMaggio intoned, "I'll finally get to see Marilyn”. He had been divorced from his true love Monroe nearly forty-five years earlier.
Stalwart journalist Edward R. Murrow expired patting his wife's hand, "Well, Jan, we were lucky at that”.
As American archetype John Wayne was passing he turned to his wife and said, "Of course I know who you are. You're my girl. I love you”.
Before committing suicide Ernest Hemingway told his wife Mary, "Goodnight my kitten”.
Oliver Hardy of the comedy duo Laurel & Hardy simply mouthed to his wife, "I love you”.
Jimmy Stewart, whose classic movie It's A Wonderful Life was the first American film broadcast on Russian television following the Soviet, expressed to witnesses, "I'm going to go be with Gloria now”. She was his wife, who had predeceased him by three years.
W.C. Fields muttered as his concluding words: "God damn the whole friggin' world and everyone in it but you, Carlotta (Monti, his longtime mistress)”.
The incomparable Casanova? "I have lived as a philosopher, and die as a Christian”.
From extortionate bouquets to stale confectionaries to ephemeral trinkets, in many ways commerce does rule the day. Everything is overcharged except the most important commodity of them all — time.
In marked contrast to each of the baubles above, hours are vastly undervalued. Especially so concerning those you share with someone else.
For St. Valentine's Day, like life, is mostly what you make it.
As long as you have another minute left on February 14th there is yet time to make it beautiful.
Guy Somerset writes from somewhere in America. For kitten.
The Russian forces destroyed a column of NATO armoured vehicles that had been delivered to the Ukrainian army.