Finding Love in an Old Shirt Box

Valentine’s Day. Not everyone’s favorite holiday, I know. It is so commercialized with all this external, unrealistic pressure to be in a relationship and if in a relationship, to be madly in love and celebrate that love in a prescribed way (you know – dinner, chocolates, and flowers). It is often a day of anticipation and expectation and disappointment. And even as a kid, Valentine’s Day can be cruel. Waiting to see who gave who Valentines, digging through your heart-shaped mailbox taped to the front of your desk, counting the candies, comparing the cards.

I get it – the day can be overdone, inauthentic and full of externally placed expectations of what love should look like.

And yet I still love Valentine’s Day. Yes. I do. I told a friend this yesterday and she replied, “Really? Why?” My easy answer is I love a good romance story. And of course, I do love getting presents and I absolutely adore artificially-flavored, sugar-loaded candy.

Looking deeper though, it all has to do with my Grandma.

As a kid, despite the possibility of personal trauma in the classroom, Valentine’s Day always started with a sweet gift of pajamas and candy in the morning from my parents. Then after a day full of candy, cards and crushes, I would come home to a Nordstrom’s shirt box sitting on the porch. Mom, Dad and I, each with the same level of excitement upon spotting the box, would rush into the kitchen to open it where we would find two layers of huge, fluffy, heart-shaped cookies with a half an inch of light pink frosting. These cookies, baked from an old sugar box recipe, are the best sugar cookies in the world. These cookies, sent in a department store box with no card, were Valentine’s Day to me.

Grandma was not big on words of affection. She did not, if ever, explicitly say she loved me. What she did do was bake Valentine’s Day cookies, every year of my childhood. It was in this simple act of baking that I felt her love for me, for our family.

Now I am the one to bake those cookies for my family and chosen family. It connects me not only to my Grandma, but reminds me that lots of people say “I love you” and “I care” – every day – in ways we do not always see or honor. In this way, Valentine’s Day is a demarcation in my year. It gives me pause to look up and take notice. Who has been offering me signs of care? How do I remember those that have been on the path ahead of me? How do I sneak in signs of my love and care into the lives of those around me?

How do you show those you love that you care?

Even the smallest gesture- a note, a clean kitchen, or a cookie makes a big impact on those who matter. I would love to hear how you show your appreciation for those in your life on Valentine’s Day or any day of the week. Join the conversation on my Facebook page.

I think it’s time for a cookie.

Annie Von EssenFinding Love in an Old Shirt Box


Join the conversation
  • Shelley Von Essen - February 13, 2014 reply

    Yep, I can see and taste those cookies right now in my memory. I think the recipe calls them “farmer sugar cookies”. Even though my Mom taught me how to make many wonderful things in the kitchen, I could never do those cookies justice. I love you, Annie, Mom

    Annie Von Essen - February 13, 2014 reply

    I love you too mom. No one can do them quite like grandma could.

  • Lisa Ascalon - February 13, 2014 reply

    I want a cookie now too! Love this story, and you.

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