Tag: valentines

Charlie’s Room: The Red Hat

One year, soon after Charlie was born, Marianne gave Isaac a red knit cap for Valentine’s day. “Did you make it for me?” he asked.

“No, I bought it at the market. But it looks warm, doesn’t it?”

Isaac put the hat on. It was warm and soft and just the right size. “I love it!” he said. And he wore it often. February was still quite cold, so he wore it many times that year.

They also took pictures of baby Charlie sleeping inside the hat. The brim was pulled up near his chin, and he looked like he was in a tiny sleeping bag.

Isaac loved his red hat. He was careful with it, and didn’t loan it out to anybody. And yet, years and years later, the hat looked worn. It wasn’t nearly as red or soft. There were spots where the yarn was stretched thin and matted.

One morning, as Isaac was getting ready to leave, Charlie looked up at him and frowned. “You need a new hat, dad.”

Isaac put his hands up to hover protectively next to his hat. “I love this hat. It’s as old as you are, you know.”

“Yes, yes.” Charlie rolled his eyes. “I’ve seen the pictures.”

“It’s hard to believe you were that small, right?”

“I got bigger because I got older. Just like your hat got older.”

Isaac covered his ears. “I didn’t hear that.”


Marianne came out of the kitchen drying her hands on a towel. She looked at Isaac and frowned. “You need a new hat.”

“See?” Charlie folded his arms across his chest and smiled.

Isaac stepped towards the door. “I really have to go now. Maybe we can talk about this later.” He opened the door and stepped outside. “Bye.” He closed the door and hurried to his car.

When he arrived at work, he left the red hat on his desk. It almost felt like he was sitting at the bedside of an old friend who had been given a terrible diagnosis. “Don’t worry,” he told the hat. “You have plenty of good years left. I’ll bring home a movie and some ice cream and they’ll forget all about this terrible new hat idea.”

The movie and ice cream distraction idea seemed to work. They had a fun evening, and nobody mentioned hats once. Isaac hid the hat under his pillow just in case.

He was pretty sure they wouldn’t get rid of his favorite hat without his permission, but he didn’t want to take any chances. There was that one time that his mom threw out his favorite boots just because there was a hole in the toe. For weeks before that he stuffed newspaper inside and his foot had stayed mostly dry and his socks were only a little stained by the newspaper ink.

It wasn’t that he had a hard time throwing things away. Not usually, anyway. But when something had enough good memories attached to it, it was hard to give it up.

Things that were well-loved had a certain glow about them. Miss Marta’s gray shawl had that glow. So did one of Mr. Johnson’s ties that was covered in tiny elephants, and Charlie’s lucky socks, and Marianne’s tiny green earrings. To Isaac his hat glowed brightest of all, but that might just be because it was his and he loved it best.

The next morning, when Isaac put the red hat on, Charlie frowned, but he didn’t say anything. Marianne stepped out of the kitchen to say goodbye. She looked at the hat and frowned. But she didn’t say anything about the hat either. Isaac relaxed. His hat was safe.

A month later, it was Valentine’s day. Isaac hummed happy birthday to his hat as he put it on. He was looking forward to an evening of pizza and board games.

Marianne and Charlie met him at the door after work. Charlie held up a lumpy present wrapped in shiny red paper and taped closed with what looked like most of a roll of tape. “I just finished your present.”

Isaac finished putting his coat away and changed out of his shoes. Then he took the present and examined it from all sides. “Let’s go sit on the couch. That looks like it may take a little while to unwrap.”

“You aren’t going to try to open it without ripping the paper, right?” Charlie tugged on the present. “I’ll open it. You take too long.”

Isaac kept a tight hold on his present. “It’s my present. Unwrapping it is part of the fun. Enjoy the journey.”

Marianne sighed. “Let’s go make cocoa. He’ll still be unwrapping when it’s ready.”

Luckily, Isaac discovered a corner where the tape was applied less densely, and soon enough he was able to slide out a soft, bright, red, knit something. “Is this a hat?” he asked. He wasn’t sure how he felt about a new hat. Could he really replace his old hat and all the memories it represented?

“Of course it is.” Charlie grinned. “I made it for you myself. Mom helped.”

Isaac looked down at his new red hat. It glowed even brighter than the old one. “I love it,” he said.

Charlie’s Room: A Handkerchief

“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.”