Everyone should be a Valentine

It’s Valentine’s Day and I have decided to recount to all of you how I honored my Mom every year after her passing.  A few loyal readers of my old blog may have heard this tale before, but I hope to add a few new bits to the dialog.

As stated earlier (in the post “Flower of youth”), Mom was a florist for 30 years.  I worked with her on some of the holidays during my youth.  As I got older and started making money, I would make sure I used her florist to send flowers.  She would try to send them without my paying, but I could always give the money to her assistant to make sure she got paid.  Eventually she relented and allowed me to just pay for the flowers (but I couldn’t stop her from giving me a “family” discount).

Mom got taken by cancer, much too young but when has cancer ever been considerate?  It was after Valentine’s Day that year which gave me time to deal with my loss and come up with an idea to “celebrate” her passion for flowers.

First thing I needed to do was find another florist like Mom’s – a single owner operation run by someone who loved flowers.  I struck lucky with my second try, finding a nice shop with a woman just a few years younger than Mom would have been.  I had a nice long conversation with her about flowers, family and loyalty and tested her out on some random deliveries (I like to send flowers for birthdays and random events as well).  She did great work and a relationship was born!

I usually sent flowers to all the women close to me in my life (relatives and friends).  I decided to expand this to every lady in my department at work.  I simply placed a single loose red rose on every female worker’s desk in the department.  I came in extra early to do this so no one would know it was me.  It was important to me that this be about receiving a flower on Valentine’s Day, not some grandstanding gesture by me.  It was only about 15 roses in all, but the surprised smiles the ladies had that morning were heartwarming.

This caused some hubbub on the floor, obviously, especially with the other ladies.  So, I figured the next year I would try and expand to the entire floor.  Talking this over with my florist, we worked out a “discounted” price for all those red roses.  In order to make it a little different, I added a little cup full of those candy hearts with the writing on them.  More hubbub ensued as well as much speculation, but the result was the same…a lot of smiling faces.  Even the guys, a few of whom made hasty calls to cover some “forgotten” people in their lives.  I love spillover benefits.

The only “complaint” I ever heard was from someone suggesting the person doing this had too much money.  I considered the comment and decided that must be the case with me, but beyond giving to charity and saving for my future (both accomplished), what else was I going to do?  I was only a middle manager, but being single and not too materialistic does have advantages.

Emboldened by this success, I decided to go “all in” and do the entire building.  This was not one of my brighter ideas (although it was one of my more selfless ones), since I soon found out there were 150 women in the building!  Oh boy.  It wasn’t just the cost of giving each of them a rose; there was also the logistics of staying “anonymous”.  This was a 4-story building with desks not always clearly labeled who sat where.  I had to develop some elaborate methods for making this happen successfully in the limited time I had (the flowers had to be on the desks for Valentine’s Day morning).

I would walk the building late at night with a diagram of the offices/cubicles and check off which one belonged to a female.  When in doubt, I would use the phone on the desk to dial their extension and listen to the voice mail to confirm male or female.  And that was the easy part.  I still had to deliver the flowers to each desk when no one was there.

The first year, that simply meant arriving about 2 in the morning with boxes of roses I had picked up the night before from the florist.  I had decided to “one up” the previous year by going with a vase this time and had moved from strictly red to all the multiple colors available (yellow, white, peach, variegated, etc.).  The security required a bit of convincing to let me in, but eventually I succeeded (after swearing them to secrecy).  I finished with enough time left over to go home and catch a couple hours sleep and come in “late” (still early, but specifically after I knew other people would be in the building).  I thought it would be a dead giveaway if there were roses at everyone’s desk and I was already at work.

Of course, that was spectacular!  And it began a trend of always trying to top the previous year.  First a vase with a small box of chocolates (just the little $1 box you could pick up at Wal-Mart – really, despite the accusation, I didn’t REALLY have too much money).  The next year, however, was my masterpiece and my Waterloo.  I decided to give a Mylar heart balloon with each vase.

This post has gone on so long, I won’t regale you further on that Valentine’s Day adventure (unless popular demand urges me to), but the cliff notes version was that the whole thing took me about 8 hours, left me with a massive headache and required an emergency call to both security and maintenance.  Still, when you walked in that morning and saw red balloons bobbing just above the top of every cubicle…wow, that was a sight to see!

After swearing never to do balloons again, I moved to stuffed animals and then plants the following years before the event came to an end with my departure from the company

For many years, I was able to keep my identity as the “Secret Valentine Cupid” unknown.  Finally, the veil became pierced and one day it was I who received a wonderful surprise, a large “card” made by the Corporate Communications group (staffed mostly be women and, not coincidentally, in my building) which over half of the women in the building signed, with or without short thank you messages.  I still keep that near me in my work room.

Occasionally I am back at my old location to pick up a former co-worker for a lunch and I’ll still hear someone say how nice a gesture it was and how they got a smile from it.  I think Mom would be pleased with the idea; I’m just sad I couldn’t give her all that business.

If the opportunity presents itself, consider the idea, if only on a small scale.  Everyone should be a Valentine.

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