Favorite Names and Valentines

This week, the students and teachers in the schools I serve are holding Valentine’s Day parties. Children have made little paper hearts for their friends and most likely, their mothers.

I have no idea how my family celebrated Valentine’s Day. I have no little, lacy, paper hearts that were given to my grandmothers or my great grandmothers by their children or a husband. That day doesn’t seem to be something that was noted or celebrated.

So, how did my family celebrate or acknowledge their love? Certainly wasn’t through flowers or store-bought Valentines. It probably wasn’t through a beautiful piece of jewelry that was then handed down from generation to generation. If it was, I haven’t seen it (although I do have an Army Air Corps locket that my grandfather gave my grandmother)

But I have seen much that demonstrates a caring and giving family, who, perhaps celebrated their love in many ways the other 364 days of the year.

It was my Grandmother Marian Page Beck traipsing across the country with three small children to see her husband, John Beck, before he left for England during World War II. It was letters my sister, Catherine, (and other family members) wrote me while I was deployed in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm. It was a family pulling together after Black Friday took the money they had saved to pay off the mortgage on a farm. It was my Great Grandmother Orpha Page getting the family to Milwaukee so my Great Grandfather could get a job at Harley Davidson. It was the Shane’s pulling together to get the family through the Depression in Pennsylvania.

It’s my daughter learning to knit, continuing a hand craft that her grandmother learned years ago and still does today. It’s me learning to tat, because I didn’t want that skill to be lost. It’s my father teaching me to work with wood, replace outlets and window panes so I can be self sufficient. It’s my sister teaching her grandson the importance of recycling and gardening and teaching him to care for others. It’s many of us who have taken the love of reading and books to obsessive levels.

It’s a beautiful handmade hickory rocking chair made on the Buckley/Miller Farm in Pennsylvania in the 1700s that now sits in my living room as a reminder of strength and resilience.

Paper disintegrates. Cut flowers die. Chocolate candy raises my blood sugar. But my husband, James Michael (Mike), whose name I love, shows his love to me in so many ways that are far more valuable than any card, candy or chocolate.

From building us a cozy, warm, charming home to showing me how much he supports me in all of my endeavors and is my biggest fan, I certainly could not ask for more ways he shows he loves me – all of the other 364 days of the year.

The names James is spread out through my family genealogy from James H. Shane, to the Hatfields, to the Dells and Trowbridges. My father was called Mike, for some reason.

I am also partial to David, my father’s middle name, and the name my daughter chose for her first child, David Tiberius Venter. He will certainly win the “Bet you can’t guess my middle name” game in elementary school. Nothing pleases me more to say his name and know his great grandfather is smiling down on him.

It’s being able to track down a line of the Neal’s because each generation used the maiden name of the mother for a son’s middle name (Silliman, Clements, Prentice and Leavitt).

So, instead of passing on mementoes of Valentine’s Day of the past, we pass on the names, the strength and resilience, skills in crafts and woodworking, pride in our country, a passion for serving others and the love of books and music.

Now that I think about it, those are more wonderful.




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