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This year, Valentine’s Day and ‘Family Day’ took place on the same weekend. The date makes sense for V Day since it’s, according to the endless ads, all about chocolate and the middle of winter is the perfect time for packing on some extra pounds to stave off frostbite. (Of course the ads often point out that, if a man gives chocolate to his lover, he’s apt to risk the backlash question:”But won’t this make me fat?” to which there is no answer and no graceful way out.) V Day is a fraught day for romance, no matter how you approach it. If you ignore it, you’re in trouble. If you do too little, you’re in trouble. Even if you go all out, you’re in trouble and expectations often overreach the reality.

My favorite V Day moment ever occurred on the television show ‘Modern Family’ when the Dunfeys went out for a drink, dressed to the nines, to do some romantic role playing. When Claire flirts with husband Phil at the bar and returns from the ladies’ room with only her trench coat on, having removed her clothes underneath, they head up the escalator to their romantic rendezvous in the hotel. Claire’s coat belt gets stuck in the escalator steps and, as they try to extricate her, everyone they know — from friends to relatives– passes by. The obvious solution, for her to simply remove the coat and walk away, isn’t an option since she is naked under her coat. Now THAT’S the funniest Valentine’s ever. And one you’d never forget!

Family Day, however, in my humble opinion, would be better in the nicer seasons so families could do swimming at the beach, tour the country looking at changing leaf colors, even walk the dog in the sweet, welcome warmth of spring. This weekend, however, The Polar Vortex has settled over Southern Ontario (and much of the U.S.) in a nasty joke bound to trap families inside their houses together until they’re ready to pull each other’s hair out!

And given the frigid temps, forget romantic V Day dinners out — all anyone wants to do is put on their sweat pants, drink too much and watch Netflix on the tube. Definitely puts the kibosh on sexy, flimsy negligees and cold champagne. And if I see that repulsive ad again suggesting grown men buy their girlfriends (blonde and buxom, of course) a six-foot high fuzzy teddy bear to cuddle, I may vomit. What real woman wants that? The ad is demeaning to men and women everywhere…even the poor stuffed bear is blushing with embarrassment.

I have no problem with the concept of showing the people in your life a bit of extra love and appreciation. It’s something we’ve always done as a family. When the kids were small, they used to make Valentine’s cards for me (usually involving red macaroni pieces) and we’d always plan a special dinner featuring only red foods. It was fine when they were meat eaters, but the selection was dismal when they changed to being vegetarians. There was the salad with red lettuce, raddichio, tomatoes, red onions, and radishes. But the main course proved problematic. They ate kidney beans or pasta with tomato sauce and I ate steak with the blood oozing out on the plate to their furious outcries of :”Mom! How could you?” Those outbursts tended to ruin my appetite, but the things a mother must do…

So what did we do this year? The Man In My Life took me out for pizza at our favorite pizza joint. As we headed back home in the frigid air, we competed for whose cough from the nasty cold we’ve had for two weeks was worst. We then hunkered down by the fire for a cozy evening. That’s really all you need.

Earlier in the day, I had received a very special Valentine’s card in the mail from L’il Sis and The Pig. The Pig, no doubt buoyed by her recent likeness featured in my essay in The Globe and Mail, trotted proudly into the local pet store to pose for the cameras again. Her cute factor was exceptional, surrounded as she was by bright red heart decals. She so impressed the photographer that her photos will now grace the website. That’s our Pig!

Gill and Crazy D were also recipients of The Pig’s photos and good wishes and I too sent cards to all. And I will probably make myself some pasta with red sauce for dinner and finish off my meal with one of the remaining dozen chocolate truffles still piled in my fridge that graced the pillows each night during our Mexico trip! That vacation, while not specifically labeled as a Valentine’s gift, was much better than getting trapped on an escalator!