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Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

Welcome to ADHD. 

[You in the Real World, be sure to click on the red underlined hyperlinks!]

Jean with kittyThis is, indeed, the same Jean Blackwell who birthed all those wild child(s)

Anybody with even a clue about life knows what tomorrow is.

Friday? asks Screen Two.

People often call it the “Day of Romance” –

Just a day? mourns Three. Why not a whole month of red-hot romance?

– even though its name is derived from a Christian martyred for his faith, and the origins are tied to Lupercalia, a festival established to avert evil spirits.

Who wants a month of that? gripes Six.

Across the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated with the exchange of cards, gifts, kisses and numerous other, err, “pleasantries.” But most of the celebrating is done by female Americans, since many male Americans believe that the next real holiday following Super Bowl Sunday isn’t until July Fourth.

The Blackwell brood is no different, especially with its testosterone-topped ratio of six males to just two females. Pop especially finds the noise and festivities all just a bit foolish, since “I tell you kids almost every day I love you.”

Apparently your athletic father confuses firm wrestling headlocks with verbal affection, notes One. I suppose the strong bear hugs count, though.

Mom, however, is not about to let slip away the opportunity to say yet again, and in a tastefully different manner, “I love all six of you.”

Hey, Black, bark six screens, you never say that to us!

Each year, we half-dozen kids sit down to a special Valentine’s Day meal – my favorites are full of ham (with mac-and-cheese on the side) – and absolutely blast through our dinner.

Nothing different there, Four drily notes.

We of eager eyes and lusting mouths watch Mom’s every move, waiting for the moment she declares dinner officially over. “Welllll,” she says and stands, causing our hearts to beat arrhythmically, “I suppose it’s time to celebrate Valentine’s.”

She walks over to the refrigerator and puts a few fingers on the door handle, a motion that sends thrills racing up and down our bodies like excited electrons. Opening the door, she reaches in and pulls out Dad’s gift first.

Why? says Two rhetorically. Because he’s her first and best Valentine.

dancing caterpillarsPop hoists his rectangular-shaped gift and acts as though he truly cannot discern what the wrapping might hold.

“What could this be?” he queries, lifting first one eyebrow, then the other, then wiggling them in tandem so they look like dancing caterpillars.

Turtles!” shouts ever-helpful Teddy. Dad tries to act as if he hasn’t heard his fifth-born. “They’re turtles, Daddy!” Teddy repeats at high volume, the rest of the family trying to silence his spoiling of the chocolate-caramel-pecan surprise.

Teddy was so young, murmurs Two. Why so hard on him?

“It’s the principle of the thing, Two,” I answer. “Dad hadn’t unwrapped ’em yet.”

But your mother gave your father turtles every year, remarks Five.

“Now it’s time for the rest of my special Valentines,” Mom says above the din, and the noise grows exponentially. To each child, from youngest to oldest, delicious chocolate hearts are handed out.

Fanny Farmer!” we kids shout in joy, treasuring the chocolate flowing from that special store we’ve acclaimed in next-town-over Summit.

“The hearts are smaller this year – cocoa prices shot up,” explains Mom, “but it doesn’t mean I love you less.” She laughs, slyly winks. “Maybe less means it will be even tastier.”

Gran writes cardsAs we age and move away, eventually starting homes and families of our own, Mom gives up mailing chocolate hearts. With no small sigh, she resigns herself to writing out cards and tucking “goody” money inside, mailing stamped envelopes to coincide almost perfectly with the arrival of the holiday.

She does this faithfully, year in and year out. And we, hitting our 30s and 40s and 50s, somehow never grow too old to enjoy her thoughtful gifts.

Though I have many of her cards, perhaps my most cherished is the one in which she says, “You’re my favorite!” It is a line she uses with each child after we hit adult strides and understand her teasing ways. Then she follows up with a bit of wisdom, writing, “Don’t be afraid. Don’t ever let fear hold you back or get in your way. See what you want in life and go after it. Always go forward.

I would love this handwritten note for its sentiment alone. But what makes this particular card the best ever is that it arrives on Valentine’s Day 2008 …

Three full days after my mother passes.

She is forever our funny Valentine.

Keep your cherished ones close and your hearts warm, safe and loved on this special day … and all the rest, too.

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Postscript – My beautiful brown-eyed bride sweetly hands me a Baskin Robbins “two-for-one” Valentine coupon. Hours later, I give it to a young female server who reads it and instructs, “If you buy a one-scoop cone, sir, you get a second one-scoop cone for free.”

“Yes,” I agree, having learned to read some time back. “But instead of one scoop apiece on separate little sugar cones, I’ll pay an extra 79 cents for a waffle cone. Put the two scoops in the single cone, please.”

She blinks quickly. “That’s not allowed.” Eyes downcast, she apologizes. “Really sorry, sir, but the coupon says you can only have two scoops. Each one must be on its own cone.”

Check for a hidden camera, advises Four. You’re being set up.

Five minutes later, the store manager listens in, approves my request, wonders aloud whether her brunette employee has blonde roots (no lie), and walks away. The dark-haired girl straightens, smiles bravely and asks, “What flavors, sir?”

Name three, urges Six. I cite two.

Our quick-to-please youngster uses the much-smaller “coupon scoop” to put lemon custard in the huge waffle cone. “Hmm,” she says with uncertainty, then grabs the full-size scoop and lays down a serious thump of yellow ice cream. “Much better. That’s how it’s supposed to look.”

Oh please oh please oh please, whispers Three, whooping when an equal portion of pralines-n-cream is slapped down atop the lemon custard.

Handing over my well-filled cone, the server almost sings, “Happy early Valentine’s Day, sir. A pleasure to serve you.”

Ahh, but the pleasure is ours! clap six screens.

* * * * *

We loved you, Shirley Temple!

Special Mom-and-Son dance

My Funny Valentine [Frank Sinatra]