It’s Valentine’s Day and love is in the (frigid) air here in Richmond. Sometimes it’s not romantic love expressed in sweet or funny cards but love between friends, relatives, teacher and student or others. Let’s celebrate those kinds of love on this special day.

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If you save valentines, you’re not alone. I have some of my great-grandmother’s valentines circa 1914 and many are from her students. Mary Stilson left her husband and children to nurse her invalid mother in Michigan. The domestic drama surrounding that is a story for another time. Surprisingly, Mary Perry Stilson was school teacher and carpenter. She built a house, still standing, where she and her mother lived until her mother’s death. My great-grandmother taught school in Mt. Pleasant for several years and later returned to Virginia…and to Harry. I also have valentines she sent to her children, signed “your loving mother.” Miles apart, valentines are a way to connect, to remind us that we are loved.

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have valentines from the next generation as well. I found cards my aunt Margaret received when she was at Midlothian School. One was from Frances Everett, now Frances Brown, when they were 14 dated February 14, 1944. Frances was a faithful friend right up to my aunt’s death last October, a friendship lasting more than 70 years. That’s inspiring.

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The sweet sentiments in those yellowing cards are to be cherished. I’ve saved a lifetime of valentines. I have some from my oldest friend Susan Thomas. She’s still my staunch supporter, inviting me to share Stilson photographs with her sorority and teachers’ associations. I’m giving a presentation to her circle at Centenary UMC this week. She is the definition of BFF.

I have valentines from Norris Hall, my “bestest” friend since second grade at Bon Air Elementary. Fifty-eight years and counting. Well, maybe not counting. We’re old enough to rather not count that many years! No, let’s count them. Each year is precious and deserves recognition.

Today I delivered valentines and homemade heart-shaped sugar cookies everywhere from Church Hill to Bon Air and Westover Hills. Some went to my mom, my kids and their families, including our “newest” sweethearts, the triplets, but I also stopped to give my “young” pal, Morris Goldberg, his valentine and cookies. Nearly 96, he was the “kid” who “drove” Harry Stilson’s streetcar and he’s very much a part of my last two books. Mr. Goldberg is one of my sweethearts.

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So was Wesley Carter. Mr. Carter died two months shy of 105 years old. You would expect him to be easy to catch and kiss on Valentine’s Day but when I delivered his valentine and cookies just months before his death, his car was gone and so was he. He had driven to meet a friend for lunch. That night, my “valentine” called to say he’d finished off the cookies. I love my old guys.

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I still have to deliver a valentine to Aleck Mollen but I got my kiss from him last week. My life is blessed by my family but I’m also grateful to have good friends. Some of them go back to my childhood, some are new, and some I’ve met through Richmond In Sight while collecting oral histories, writing books, and giving presentations. The really great part is that I meet more amazing Richmonders every day as I continue RIS projects. If we didn’t already have a Valentine’s Day, I’d have to create one!

 

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