“It’s almost valentine’s day,” Charlie said one afternoon. “Mom’s at a workshop, so you can tell me what you got her and she won’t hear.”
Isaac smiled. “I got her a handkerchief. It’s that really bright green like her favorite shirt. She always gets a cold this time of year, so an extra handkerchief will be handy.”
“You can’t get her a handkerchief.” Charlie looked horrified. “You’re supposed to give people flowers and candy. Everybody knows that.”
“But the handkerchief is useful, and it will last longer than flowers and candy. And I think it will make her smile. Your mom has the prettiest smile of anyone I know.” Isaac thought for a moment. “She does like flowers, though. Would you like to go to the store with me and help me pick some out? They can be from both of us.”
Charlie grinned. “Of course I will. I know all the flowers Mom likes best. I help her in the garden, you know.”
“Sounds great. Let’s go.” Isaac set down the crossword book and stood up. “Don’t forget your coat. It’s cold outside.”
As Charlie put his arm in the sleeve of his coat, he paused. “Could we get ingredients for cookies? Maybe we could take some to the neighbors. They need valentines, too. Cookies are good neighbor valentines.”
Isaac zipped up his coat. “That’s a great idea. You could make cards to go with them. Homemade cards are good valentines for anyone, including neighbors.”
“Are they good for parents, too?” Charlie looked hopeful. “I didn’t have any extras of my cards from the store. There was just enough for my class at school.”
“I love homemade cards. Your mom does too. I think they show that you spent time on trying to make something that someone would like, and that you were thinking of them. That’s nice.” Isaac made sure Charlie was all the way in the car and closed the door.
“Maybe I could make dinosaur valentines! Do we have green paper? And googly eyes, the kind that you glue on and they move around when you shake the paper?” Charlie held out his arms, hands wide apart. “Googly eyes will make my cards this much better.”
Isaac laughed. “Let’s see what we can find at the store. I think we have a busy afternoon ahead of us.”
They found everything they needed. Charlie picked out a lovely bunch of pink and red and white carnations. “Mom likes the smell, and these look like valentine’s day,” he said. There were craft supplies and baking supplies, and Charlie even got a new pencil sharpener when they were looking at the craft paper nearby. “I lost mine, so it’s good they have some here.”
At home, they put the flowers in water. “Won’t your mom see them before valentine’s day if we leave them on the counter?” Isaac asked.
Charlie thought for a moment. “You could hide them inside the curtains by the window in my room. Maybe she won’t see them.”
Flowers well-hidden, they started on the cookies. While they baked, Charlie made cards. He drew all sorts of dinosaur shapes on the paper, and Isaac helped him cut them out. Then Charlie decorated them and glued on googly eyes.
When the cookies were cool and packaged with paper plates and plastic wrap, and the cards were all made (and a few of them hidden for later), Isaac and Charlie looked at the clock.
“Mom will be here soon,” Charlie said. “Do you think she’ll want to deliver the valentines to the neighbors with us?”
“But it’s not valentine’s day yet. Shouldn’t we wait?” Isaac asked.
“You can deliver neighbor valentines early,” Charlie said. “It’s like Christmas cookies. We delivered those weeks before Christmas.”
“I think you’re right.” Isaac nodded. “Let’s wait for your mom.”
When Marianne came home, they delivered the cookies. “No caroling,” Charlie said before they left. “That’s only for Christmas.”
Marianne admired the dinosaur cards. “I hope you made me one,” she said. “I think they’re great.”
Charlie grinned. “You’ll have to wait and see.” He turned to Isaac. “I told you googly eyes would make them better.”
The neighbors loved the valentines. A few days later, Charlie helped Isaac give Marianne the flowers. She loved them. “My favorites,” she said happily, and smelled the carnations.
Isaac and Marianne loved the dinosaur cards, of course. And Marianne smiled when she opened the handkerchief. “It’s just what I needed,” she said happily.
Charlie looked confused and turned to Isaac. “You were right. I wouldn’t want a handkerchief for a gift, though.”
Isaac handed him a small package. “It’s a good thing I didn’t get you one,” he said.
Charlie tore open the wrapping paper. “A dinosaur eraser? Wow!” He smiled.
Marianne hugged them both at once. “I made us a chocolate cake. Who wants to eat cake and watch a movie?”
That night at bedtime, after Isaac read a bedtime story and listened to Charlie’s prayers, he got up to turn off the light. “Dad,” Charlie said, just as he turned off the light. “It wasn’t really about the handkerchief, was it? Mom was happy because you were thinking of her, right?”
“That’s right. Like the cards you spent so much time on.”
“And Mom’s chocolate cake she made.”
Isaac nodded. “That’s right.”
“That’s what I thought,” Charlie said. “The flowers were good though, because I know Mom’s favorites.”
“That shows you were thinking about her, too.”
“I guess you’re right. Valentine’s day is more complicated than I thought.”
Isaac laughed. “Don’t worry. You have plenty of time to figure it out.”
“I guess there’s one every year.” Charlie yawned. “Goodnight, Dad. I love you.”
“Goodnight, Charlie. I love you too.”