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LAce Posted Monday, February 26th, 2007
Valentineís Day 2007
Jennifer Wieland

This is what you see when you go to the grocery store at eight a.m. on February 14. A woman in the driverís seat of an SUV, signing valentines, folding them, applying little heart stickers, with a toddler in the backseat. In the produce section, where the apples and pears usually reside, piles of floral arrangements all cellophane-wrapped and tagged with bar codes for easy check-out. The bakery shelves full of hot pink frosted cookies with sprinkles and miniature red velvet cakes.

In seasonal, a cardboard display that used to hold Valentine cards and is now picked over. It looks like a cactus. Also in seasonal, a haggard mom using profanity (really!) while she argues with her 10-year-old son about which classroom cards to get. Sports? Cars? Whatever he really wanted is no longer there, and heís sullen. Fifteen minutes from now, sheíll be sitting in the parking lot, signing, folding, applying little heart stickers, with him in the backseat.

In the checkout line, there are men, lots of men, holding those same cellophane floral arrays, and sometimes cards, hastily selected from the emptied rows. One man carries two armfuls of flowers and has the card in his teeth. The woman in front of me has a Spongebob Squarepants balloon and another one that says ďI Love YouĒ in curlicue script. The Whitmanís Samplers are a hot commodity. No bottles of wine, because here in Kansas, you canít buy it at the grocery store. I imagine when the liquor store next door opens up, it too will be clogged with these shoppers.

All of it, strangely, makes me smile. Warm and fuzzy inside, even though outside is hovering near zero. I just stopped at the store for a couple things: diapers, mushrooms, butter. But being here, all of it makes me really, really want to go pick up one of those Dora the Explorer balloons, a box of Turtles, some festively frosted donuts. I donít, I resist. Partly because thereís an inexplicable embarrassment I would feel carrying the balloon through the parking lot, battling the wind to get it into my car. Partly because Iím liking the feeling of just watching as the Valentine chaos swirls around me.

I check out, head back to my car. Next to me, between my parking space and the cart return corral, an SUV spews exhaust into the winter air. I look in the driverís window and itís the same one from when I went in fifteen minutes ago. Sheís still applying the stickers.

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