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Celebrating creativity & platonic love
Almost everything I write is a Valentine, sometimes to you bread, sometimes to flour, sometimes to my friends. I heart the sun, I heart libraries, I love New York (remember that jingle?)
And so, as Valentine's Day approaches, I don't fret about what to give my sweetheart, but I get in the groove by making paper Valentine's and baking Valentine's, and racing to the post office at the absolute last minute.
I credit my mother with planting this idea of holiday. For us, Valentine's meant opening a box of doilies and antique greetings, grabbing the Elmer’s glue and red construction paper, and getting busy. We worked together at the round wooden table in the kitchen, or the oval oak table in the dining room, spreading out our options.
Of course, we sometimes bought sets of cards, Muppet or Disney themed. In early elementary school we had lists of our classmates' names, and I like to think that when I was in 4th and 5th grade I gave everyone cards, mentally running through the seating in my homeroom to make sure I included everyone. But did I really do that? I do not know if I'm trying to remember myself more generously than I actually was. I was obsessed with fairness though, so I imagine I gave everyone cards until it looked too childish.
One year in my late 20s, I had a campaign for the sweetheart holiday. I printed BE YOURS! on pages of old paperbacks and made them into cards, handing them out to strangers. I was riffing on the idea that you had to love yourself before anyone else loved you, which I struggled with, and still do. Love is something you give to others, right? But I loved the phrase BE YOURS! for its unusualness. Using rubber stamps, I could turn the needle away from romantic love and toward platonic love.
We put too much importance on romantic love. Yes, our mates are significant, but friends are essential. I rely on mine for connection, support, brainstorming, and everything else. I salute them this season, and inadvertently, practice some of that self-love, making cards, brittle and cookies
Am I dubious of the necessity of loving myself because I was raised Catholic? Because I’m a woman in a man’s world? Because I am an underdog, Irish and Polish?
Yet I notice how my heart swells when I make things. Standing at the stove, waiting for the bubbles to burst the surface of a pancake’s perfect round – what a pleasing thing that is to do. I fell in love with this, and all other aspects of baking, because of how it makes me feel whole to make things. Especially for other people.
I wince when people say they are not creative. Creativity is central to the human experience, no matter what mode is yours. Maybe, if I think of self-love as creativity, I can wash off the negative connotations I have for the term. Maybe, maybe that could work.
This midwinter holiday, I hope that your heart is swelling as you bake or sew or sing, and that you have someone to give you satisfaction. Someone to share the evidence of your beating heart. Like a Valentine.
I made these pink cookies and Indian nut brittle to give loved ones. I used whole grain Farmer Ground spelt flour instead of the AP in the cookies; I added a tablespoon of fennel seeds and some cracks of fresh pepper to the brittle and used almonds and sesame seeds because that’s what I had at hand.