This isn’t my first winter-themed Valentine’s Day weekend.
Eons ago, while growing up in B.C.’s hinterland, the famed day of sweethearts collided with the realities of our unpredictable climate.
I don’t remember which boy it was I had my eye on that year, and likewise he will never know the trouble I went through for him on that memorable day. But what transpired was likely my very first lesson in love. And that lesson was, love hurts. More specifically, the lesson was that love can lead to frostbite.
Let me explain.
I was in my middle school years, and I was particularly excited about the big day. I was probably 13 — old enough to either be allowed to wear a mini skirt or sly enough to sneak out wearing one at 7 a.m. in the middle of winter.
There was a lot of lead up to that fateful day. As a new teenager, I planned my outfit days in advance. That morning I woke early, did my hair and makeup, and even wore nice shoes. And no, I did not wear my proper winter boots, because how bad would that look, right?
I put on that getup proudly and stubbornly, and I walked down our half km driveway to the school bus stop with my older brother. He laughed and told me I was ridiculous and I told him with just as much authority that I simply didn’t care.
We trudged along through the snow down our long driveway in the dark, just before dawn. The air was so frozen you could feel it melting in your lungs.
It mattered little to me that we lived in a tiny mountain village, just shy of the 900m elevation mark.
It also didn’t matter to me that our bus stop was on the side of a highway, with logging trucks roaring by causing wind and rock spray.
But it did matter to me that the bus was late that day. I became suddenly aware that my skirt was too short. My shoes were inadequate. Eventually, my toes completely froze and I had to resign myself to the fact that Valentine’s Day would elude me. My very first Valentine’s Day as a young woman. The first Valentine’s Day where my eye was on just one person, instead of dropping a mom-bought card onto every classmate’s desk.
The real damage was probably to my ego, but my heart and toes stung equally.
Eventually I hobbled back down our long driveway, frostbitten and stubbornly upset at the school bus driver. I cursed Cupid and bit back tears as I made the long trek home on my heels.
I snuck back into the house, took off my shoes and held my toes in my hands. I stumbled upstairs, sulking and in pain. I curled up in bed, having made my brother swear that he wouldn’t tell our mom I had tried to go out dressed like that.
I missed Valentine’s Day but I spent the day eating chicken soup and drinking cocoa and reading by the fire. Now that I’m 40, it’s exactly how I’d love to spend every winter day, including Valentine’s.
And I did tell my mom eventually, although I’m pretty sure she knew all along why I ended up back home.
The only way to wrap the day up was to wait for my best friend to get home after school. She called me, faithfully, to ask where I’d been and tell me all about the day that was. I heard about romances that did and didn’t happen. I heard gossip, like who was mean to whom. Broken hearts and inappropriate PDAs. There was no Snapchat, no Facebook, no texts. I just listened intently and asked prodding questions.
And in the end, I permanently swore off Valentine’s Day, its expectations and stupidity. And I quietly vowed to myself to never wear the wrong shoes for the weather again.