My family is odd. Wait! Let me rephrase that (although what I said is quite true): My family celebrates (and makes up) holidays in odd ways.
There's Wumpledinger's Day...nah, I won't go into that now - except to say that it's celebrated at the end of May. Let's just skip to the February 14th celebration, Valentine's Day.
Let me tell you about my family's history with The Valentine's Man...
When my brother and I were young we were visited each February 14th by The Valentine's Man. At some point during the evening there would be a knock at the front door, my brother and I would dash to the door and we would find 2 boxes of candy - one for each of us - right outside. Just candy! There was no one around, no one in sight. Who knocked?
We were told that the candy (and the knock) came from The Valentine's Man, but we weren't exactly sold on the story. "What'd The Valentine's Man bring you?" wasn't a question you heard bandied about at recess.
Our suspicions mounted as we got older, and so for years my brother and I would keep our eyes glued to both our parents starting somewhere around evening on February 13th. But neither of them was ever near the door when that knock came.
When I was considering whether to introduce my own kids to this goofball Valentine's Day tradition I asked my mother who The Valentine's Man had been when I was a kid - who did the knocking and running.
She couldn't remember. At least 10 years of establishing and maintaining this yearly subterfuge and she could not remember who played the role of door knocker/candy giver. Seriously!?!
I've asked her a number of different times now - through the years - hoping that the memory would resurface sometime, but no go.
I still wonder who it was and how whoever-it-was got away so fast.
I've ruled my paternal grandmother out. She lived across the street, but she was round. I can't see her knocking and then disappearing that quickly.
Besides, even though she could be funny (she taught me cool camp songs with words like "fart" in them - and some song I wish I knew the rest of the words to, because all I remember is: "...the baby pooped in the noodle soup and I ne'er went there no more.") I can't imagine her thinking the whole knock-and-run thing worth the effort. So who?
We may never know!
Even without knowledge of how my parents worked The Valentine's Man trickery I decided to continue the tradition. We had The Valentine's Man make visits when my (now adult) daughters were little. And when my (now early 20's) son was little, and again when my granddaughter lived here for a few years.
The story I remember telling my daughters and granddaughter was that The Valentine's Man is a guy in tights. Cupid, the pink tights, the arrow. Bringing candy for sweet children. It's cold in February, of course he's in a hurry!
The story changed a wee bit when my son was young. He claims that I told him The Valentine's Man was in a big hurry because he was naked. I blame Perimenopause for this.
My kids got suspicious (like my brother and I had). They weren't exactly sold on the story - and began watching their father and I closely starting early evening February 13th each year.
Luckily their uncle was the one who often did the knock and run. He's lean and fast.
The year my granddaughter was 4 my son quietly planted the goodies in the front entryway an hour or so before the official knock.
When it seemed about time for The Valentine's Man to visit I diverted my granddaughter's attention by pointing to something in another room, and - while her eyes were averted - I reached around behind me and rapped hard on the door.
Her head spun around - her eyes got wide. We raced for the door, and sure enough - there were a couple packages and no one in sight.
After examining her goodies, she kept grilling me: "You didn't knock?" (she's a bright one) "For real?". I kept lying.
I have no idea why I continued this tradition. Valentine's Day seems a simple enough holiday - what possessed my parents, and then me, to drag The Valentine's Man (and lying) into it?
I only hope that years from now - if anyone asks - I'll remember how we did it. And I guess I wouldn't mind seeing the tradition continue, but I'm glad that there's no lying involved in Wumpledinger's Day (well, except for the tiny falsehood that got the holiday started...).