The traditions of Valentine’s Day have long been ingrained in my heart and life and have always included a box of chocolates. As a child, Daddy never failed to buy the ubiquitous heart-shaped box of Russell Stover’s chocolates for Mother on Valentine’s Day. The bow on the box may have changed through the years, sometimes adorned with plastic or paper flowers, but the red, satin-covered, heart-shaped box remained the same. Upon delivery of the box, usually at the end of the day when Daddy walked through the door with sweets in hand, we always knew that we would also share in the treats and a hug. We, of course received our own Valentine treats in the shape of multiple-colored candy hearts which touted the typical Valentine phrases of “Be mine” or “I love you.” But as you might expect, as children, we were definitely more interested in sampling the various shaped chocolates from the red box.
Each year, one simple rule was in play even though we knew exactly what we weren’t supposed to do. “No squeezing the candy to see which filling was contained within and then putting it squeezed-side down back in the box.” Who could blame us for trying? Caramel was everyone’s favorite and if you picked a candy with mocha or strawberry nougat, you were stuck with it; you either ate it or gave it to someone else. With this rule in place, it didn’t us take long to decipher that the candies covered in pink or white were definitely not caramel, and the ones wrapped in foil were more than likely filled with a nut or some sort crème.
Mother was always the first to select, and by her side, smaller sets of hands pointed to the ones we thought were caramel-filled. “Pick that one, it’s a caramel,” was the Valentine cry, even though that declaration may not have always been the most honest-thwarting discovery of a caramel was often the intent of the proffered advice. If you happened to pick a candy that you didn’t like, there was always someone who would jump in and claim the prize and double the pleasure.
Regardless of the filling, one by one the brown paper wrappers were left absent of candy until eventually the containers were empty and the heart-shaped box, discarded.
The tradition of the red, hearted-shaped box of chocolates continued for years, and it wasn’t long before we learned that the caramels were always square or rectangular in shape, the nut fillings were oval or wrapped in foil, and the crème fillings were always round. The mystery of which filling was in which candy became less and less of a mystery and more of an exact science after years of practice and inaccurate selections.
To my surprise, somewhere along the line, my son continued the tradition we had shared with our parents, and I started to find my own box of Russell Stover’s Valentine chocolates on the kitchen table, on my dresser, or in the mailbox when distance between us prevented a personal delivery. It didn’t matter that it probably cost more to mail that box of chocolates than it cost to purchase the box. Like my father, my son has seen to it that a box of chocolates is always present on Valentine’s Day.
Forrest Gump was right. With a box of chocolates you never know what you are going to get. Except for the Strange kids-we knew exactly what was hidden in those chocolates. To this day, square is for caramel, oval is for nut, round is for crème and Valentine’s Day is for love. Celebrate with someone special. I’m off to check my mailbox.