By Norma J. Kirkpatrick

Guest columnist

February is not only the shortest month, but also encompasses Groundhog’s Day; President’s Day, and the best of all, Valentine’s Day.  Shortly after the earth’s surface had cooled, and I was in grade school, I remember making valentines with snubbed nose, dull little scissors that wouldn’t cut my fingers or anything else very well. We used red construction paper, crayons and paste in a jar if we wanted to stick something on our lopsided images of a heart. About that paste; I remember that it smelled really good and one of my friends ate it by the finger full.  My editor might want to make a footnote that eating paste could be hazardous to your health.
I remember a few years after that, when I was about twelve, and people were buying valentines; I found a valentine lying on my desk in a red envelope.  I had only been in that school for a few months and was so excited. After I opened it, my big smile quickly faded and my face turned as red as the envelope, as some girls giggled and nudged each other with their elbows.  The verse said, “You’re my melancholy baby, and that suits you by golly, ‘cause your head is like a melon and your face is like a collie.”  There was a picture of a cantaloupe with a goofy face, and the head of a collie dog.  The card was not signed.
The fact that I still remember exactly what that card said after all of these years proves that it was a significantly crushing event in my young life. It was painful to learn that someone could hide their anonymous cruelty and malice in the guise of a valentine.  Where I had expected kind and loving words; I innocently found public humiliation.
Of course, I am a woman now and have well recovered from that event.  I share this little story, not to make you laugh, nor have pity for me, but to encourage all of us to give love carefully and honestly to one another, with no heartless intent.
We use the word “love” casually and superficially, which tends to weaken the true intensity of that one word. We love fried chicken, and we love our new house.
But real love is people related. We cannot live without love; and we haven’t lived until we have given love. To love someone else more than we love ourselves is a reflection of the divinity in which we are created.
Depending upon your age and your circumstances, perhaps you celebrate love with the exchange of the perfect valentine. Maybe you show your love by being a faithful parent to the children you adore; or by holding a wrinkled old hand you have held throughout a lifetime.
There are all kinds of love, and many ways to express it to others; but the best kind is not only given on one special day, but all the way through your unique life.  It is a good gift that never goes out of style, and is so powerful it can change the world.
Norma J. Kirkpatrick is a guest columnist for the Opelika Observer. She is a wordsmith who has contributed to teaching materials, magazines and newspapers. She also collaborates with authors on literary projects and writes an occasional poem.  She can be reached at