It’s not all glitz and glamor, the life of an author. No siree. I may spend my days playing on my computer with people created from my own imagination, but I am still a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. I still have to cook and clean—although I have convinced my beloved that it really is past time that he lends a hand with the latter.
Still, the bulk of the work running the household falls to me. And every once in a while, strange things happen.
One such strange happening occurred one day last week as I began to prepare dinner. We were having beef stew and it was time to get the potatoes peeled and into the pot. I reached into the bag and pulled out a potato that was in a nearly perfect valentine heart shape.
I kid you not.
I held this thing in my hand and laughed. Of course, I didn’t peel it. How could I? I mean, how often do you suppose anyone reaches into a bag of potatoes and pulls out a heart?
So I set the potato aside, and made the dinner. But that heart made me think back to those days long gone when I was a young mother—and probably my only Valentine’s Day fail, ever.
When we were five—mom and dad, and three children aged from five to eleven—we didn’t have much. We scraped and saved for Christmas. For Valentine’s Day, we made sure that we had enough money set aside for the kids to buy their package of cards to give out at school, and to get them each a small, heart shaped box of candies for the day itself.
But some years were leaner than others. One time, in particular, I recall, there was just enough for the cards but not the chocolates. It really upset me at the time—you know how it is. Kids think you’re a big meanine when you have to say no, but you understand, as a parent, that things can happen to prevent you from doing what you’d hoped. When that happened in the past, I always just felt like a failure. You want to give your children not just what they need but some of what they want, but you can’t, always.
Valentine’s Day came that particular year, and I was making dinner—meatloaf, which everyone actually loved, mashed potatoes, and carrots. Suddenly, I had an amazing thought.
So I cooked the dinner carefully—the meatloaf not in the standard loaf pan, but instead on a tray in the oven, because I’d shaped the meat differently. I cut the carrots differently too—not sliced round, as usual, but in sticks.
When my family came to the table for supper, rather than just putting the food on the table for them to serve themselves, I presented them with their plates: meatloaf in the shape of hearts, with mashed potatoes forming a white pseudo-lace “boarder” around each heart, and the carrots laid out across the hearts as “arrows”.
I laugh thinking about it now, because I was so proud of myself for my great ingenuity! Unfortunately the comments I got were less than laudatory. You can imagine: “you should have used corn, because this sure is corny”, and other grumblings of a less than enthusiastic nature. They were children, after all, and more interested in chocolate than the sentiment behind them.
Flash forward about thirty years, to this freak of nature I found in my bag of potatoes. I haven’t done anything with it yet. It’s still sitting in the centre of the “lazy Susan” on my kitchen table. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it—but I think I might just save it until the 14th. Then I’ll scrub it, prick it, brush it with olive oil and wrap it in foil. I’ll present it to my beloved for dinner, perhaps alongside a steak.
He might think (once more) that it’s corny, but that’s all right. I’m nearly sixty, and if there is one thing in life I’ve learned, it’s this:
Often times, a potato is only, in the end, a potato. And Valentine’s really is about sentiment behind the day.