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Tips for tardy hearts and flowers

If this day — best known for boxed chocolates and personally delivered cards awash in hearts and flowers — slipped your mind in its likely importance to the person(s) you love, I have your back.

For example, no card? Fold a piece of typing paper in half and draw a large, bright red heart on the outside. If you have some sprinkles leftover from Christmas cookie baking, glue them on. Under your artwork, I encourage you to write, “You have my heart.” And then inside the card, “Always have. Always will.” Guaranteed to please.

Or you could add a dash of humor and make a Valentine’s Day card that states, “I love you with 97% of my heart.” Inside should read, “The other 3% is reserved for chocolate.” You might include a few random chocolate chips in the envelope.

If you decide that cooking a tasty Valentine’s Day breakfast is the answer, I suggest making the pancakes in the shape of hearts and floating a few strawberries in the orange juice.

Simple gestures of love and caring are more difficult because hugs these days must be given with masks on and caution lights blazing, and all that touches when we encounter an old friend is our elbow tips. This requires forethought so, again, just in case the day crept up on you and you need more ideas, I encourage leaving a few random love notes around the house in unexpected places. “You bring out the best in me” is my personal favorite. But there are always phrases like “I love you with all my belly. I would say heart, but my belly is bigger.”

My father, who was definitely not a hearts and flowers type of guy, placed a sticky note written in a red felt-tipped marker saying, “I love you mommy!” on the dresser mirror in my parent’s bedroom, and it stayed there for 20 years.

As is true for so many, these past months have been particularly challenging in our household, so I have been planning ahead — desiring to make Valentine’s Day something special, “heartfelt.” My best idea, which you still have time to replicate, was prompted by the fact I am a regular reader of the York Times “Tiny Love Stories” column, which asks readers to share their love stories in 100 words or fewer. I wrote and submitted a story about the first encounter with my husband 40 years ago asking the question, “Could this be love?” I am still hoping it will get published, so I will not preempt that possibility by including it in full in this column. I warn you the 100-word limit can be a little daunting.

There is a book packed with sentiments that took their lead from the tiny love stories concept. It is titled “Modern Love: True Stories Full of Love, Loss and Redemption,” edited by Daniel Jones. The titles he gives the stories are very engaging — “Misery Loves Fried Chicken Too” and “Uh, Honey, That’s Not Your Line.” You get the picture — lighthearted and heartfelt. The way life should be every day.

Sharon Johnson is a retired educator. Reach her at sharjohn99@gmail.com.