A version of this story appeared in the Falmouth Bulletin, February 2008
The teenage years were the worst: full of unrequited love and hormonally charged crushes on fellows who did not even know of my existence let alone my name. A long tradition at Falmouth High School always magnified my feelings of lovelessness and teen angst. The kind illustrated so well in all of those John Hughes movies of the 1980’s, like "Pretty in Pink" and "Sixteen Candles". I'm pretty sure it was called, “Flower Day”-the Honor Society raised money by selling flowers during the week before “Black Friday” as my friend Ted put it, so pained by this event that he actually remembers that it was on a Friday in 1986. You could choose a red carnation for love, pink for like and yellow/white for friendship. According to my sister Karyn, there was some unwritten rule that red was reserved for official boyfriends/girlfriends, but I don’t remember that. The flowers were distributed during home room on Valentines Day. I was always among those who ended up in a cold sweat as the smug delivery geek called out the worthy people’s names in the front of the entire classroom. All the world would be a twitter as no one “knew” who sent the flowers until they got an opportunity between classes to visit the six foot table manned by the Honor Society and payed a dollar (double dipping??) to receive the message attached to the flower order. Scandals were abundant, as they always are during the high school years. My friend Debbie recalls a fight between two suitors who both sent her red carnations (ignoring Karyn’s rule mentioned above). It ended in the much smaller of the two being thrown down the stairs into House B cafeteria. Her boyfriend at the time, who did not send her any flowers and was not bothered by the suitors at all, seems to have won in the end as he is now her husband.
If Flower Day caused stress, there was something at home that made it better. My mother, Val chose funny cards that she placed at each of our chairs at the dinner table. (At least my parents loved me during those awkward years!) She also made her traditional heart cookies. She sent us to school during all of our elementary years with enough for our entire class of the yummy heart cut out sugar cookies covered in light pink frosting with a single red hot in the middle for extra flair. As the years went on, she made two sizes of hearts, some small and some large to fit any appetite and left a few unfrosted for my father, Dick who never liked things to be too sweet. I could always count on those melt in your mouth cookies stored in the large square Tupperware on the kitchen counter to make me feel the world was still o.k. after a long day of teenage drama.
Valentines day in 1987, my senior year of high school, was on a Saturday. (Don’t worry, Flower Day still happened on Friday the 13th!) It was icy, cold and snowy as the month of February in New England can often be. Earlier that evening, I had been to a party with my best girlfriends: Jen and Jenny. It was pretty uneventful. The only thing I recall about the soiree was the family dog. It had 3 legs and we called him,“Tripod”. Around midnight I was home and standing in the kitchen with Val who was made sure she was awake to see that we arrived home safely and in the proper state. As I talked about the night, the past week, whatever (it didn’t really matter), I savored those divine heart cookies out of the square tupperware and drank a large glass of cold milk while Val listened and enjoyed her usual: specially made hot cocoa with semi-sweet cocoa and milk. The comforts of home trump a wilted carnation any day.
Valentine's Day Heart Cookies
(Cut Out Sugar Cookies)
(makes about 48)
2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Using a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar, well. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until light and fluffy. Add flour mixture and mix until combined. Shape dough into 2 disks. Wrap disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out small portions of dough on a lightly floured board to 1/8" thick. Cut cookie shapes using well floured cookie cutters and place on parchment or silicone mat lined baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes until edges of cookies just begin to turn golden. Remove from pan onto wire racks to cool. Repeat process with remaining dough. Cool cookies completely before frosting.
Frosting for Sugar Cookies
(makes enough to frost one batch)
2 tablespoons softened butter
2 cups confectioner's sugar
about 2 tablespoons milk, room temperature
optional: red food coloring, assorted sprinkles
Combine butter and 1/2 cup sugar using a stand mixer. Slowly, add 1-2 teaspoons milk and alternate with remaining sugar and milk until desired frosting consistency is achieved. If it's too runny, add a little more sugar, too stiff, add a drop or two of milk. Add a few drops of food coloring and mix well. Frost cookies and add sprinkles on top immediately before frosting sets. Allow frosting to harden overnight before storing cookies in an airtight container.