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Believing in the origin of love Richard Pena | Sat, Jan 22 2011 12:00 PM

I took a ride over to one of the local emporiums this past weekend to see what sort of unwanted items were on sale, you know, those type of things that you never, under normal circumstances would buy. I was greeted at the entrance of the store by a large display of items relating to Valentine's Day.

Actually, I should have known that something like this would take center stage. What surprised me, probably, were the thoughts of the just-past Christmas season.

It seemed that it was just a few days since we had taken down all the holiday cheer and once more stored it for another year. But the one thing that I had probably forgotten is that one does not stop the calendar. Father Time just keeps rolling along and these special days keep appearing.

I really should not complain. I like Valentine's. That particular day and I go back many years and hold many fond memories.

I recall the Valentine Days of my growing up years, those early school days when you had that favorite girl that you admired. We would save our nickels and dimes to purchase that one special card just for her.

It was the kind that had all sorts of colors surrounding it and decorative crepe lining its borders, the one that made all the other little boys envious. The anticipation of our sweetheart's reaction was more than we could bear. It generally was nothing more than a fleeting smile. But that was enough. We were sitting on cloud nine, even if it was merely transitory.

Alas, there were not many times when we had that "favorite girl." Steady girlfriends were as rare as straight A's.

In retrospect I suppose we would strive for that special one a few days before Valentine's Day and demonstrate our devotion with that special card. A few days later we were probably history but that's the way of early-age courtship.

Valentine's Day, it is said, goes back to the third century and it is, of course, named after a person of that name.

Some historians tell us that there were two Valentines but others say that it was only one, a Christian, that did a lot of traveling.

Unfortunately, Valentine - or Valentinus - lived during the reign of the Roman emperor Claudius II who, the literature tells us, was not a very nice man. He was anti-Christian and did not put up with anyone who didn't believe as he did.

Valentine, therefore, was summarily arrested and thrown into prison pending execution. While there he was befriended by one of the jailers who had a problem. He had a daughter, Julia, who had been blind since birth and had little schooling.

The jailer, knowing Valentine to be a learned man, asked him if he could teach his daughter. And that he did, touching on all the subjects of the day but especially about Christianity and the goodness of God. He taught her to pray and, on the night before Valentine's execution, they were at prayer when her sight was restored.

Valentine was executed on Feb. 14, 270, and was buried in Rome. Before he died he wrote a note to Julia and signed it "from your Valentine."

The literature tells us that this was the origin of Valentine's Day and the custom of expressing love and affection.

I customarily send Valentine's cards, particularly to the ladies in my family, as well as some close friends.

In recent years I started the custom of sending a special one to my wife Zula. This, I believe, started in the years that the greeting card companies made and distributed those cards that were of a grandois nature.

Many of these I have saved. Quite recently my daughter Margaret gave me the beginnings of a scrap book. She says that I can spend my spare time (whatever that is) in organizing all those things that I have saved over the years. This would include all those Valentine's cards.

There are some people who believe that there never was a St. Valentine. Valentine, they say, was just a story that was not founded on fact.

I am not one of them.

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