Do you know where your Valentine is?

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I made this Valentine for my then boyfriend, Bob when he was a plebe at West Point. We married two weeks after he graduated from West Point.

I don’t claim that this Valentine sealed the deal but it didn’t hurt. After all, ours was a long distance relationship for the four years he was at West Point. We both took advantage of every form of communication that was possible back then. Phone calls, letters and special missives helped us to stay in touch. There were no facebook, twitter, cell phones or text messages back then.

In fact, Bob could not use the phone at West Point very much at all when he was a plebe. The cadets were not allowed phones in their rooms. When Bob was a firstie he was allowed to call me more often, and I told him to call collect. My parents were shocked when they saw the phone bill but I was good for it.

But, it was the specially made Valentine that made an impression I think. When Bob graduated from West Point and moved out of the barracks I found the Valentine in his army footlocker. He had thrown everything else away but the very amateur Valentine.

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When I was fifteen I discovered the writer Thomas Hardy through the movie, Far from the Madding Crowd. The film, starring Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Peter Finch and Terrence Stamp absolutely captivated me.

Julie Christie starred as Bathsheba Everdene, a highly spirited, independent young woman who had inherited a large estate from her uncle and become very wealthy. She had earlier rejected the attentions of the honest, reliable shepherd, Gabriel Oak, played by Alan Bates.

On an impulse, Bathsheba sends a Valentine, sealed with red wax, anonymously to the richest farmer in the county, William Boldwood, played by Peter Finch. On it she writes, Marry Me.

This impulsive act causes heartache and tragedy for both Bathsheba and Boldwood.

The movie inspired me to read all of Thomas Hardy’s books but Far From the Madding Crowd taught me at that early age about steadfast, faithful and selfless love. I witnessed that kind of love everyday with my own parents but seeing it displayed in a movie and reading about it through the richness of Hardy’s prose embedded the eternal ideal in my heart.

When I began to date at the age of sixteen, the young men had to embody the attributes of Gabriel Oak. Very few did.

My West Point cadet did and continues to do so.

For all things having to do with Valentines Day, check out my niece, Marlane’s blog.

Happy St. Valentines Day!