Monday, February 13, 2012

posterity - when is a bullet-ridden laptop like a valentine?

Bear with me. This is the first in a series of blog posts about parenting during “Hallmark holidays” like Valentine’s Day, but it starts with a father shooting his daughter’s laptop with a .45. If you managed to avoid exposure to last week’s viral video, you can read about it here. To make a long story (i.e., an 8-minute video) short, a 15-year-old girl dissed her parents on Facebook. Being grounded didn’t prevent her from doing it again, so Dad took a gun to her laptop.

I won’t offer my opinion of this man’s actions (though you can probably guess based on the link I shared). Frankly, beyond the extent that child and family wellbeing affects the common welfare, it’s none of my business how a father in North Carolina disciplines his daughter. Unfortunately, this dad made it everyone’s business by enacting his punishment on camera and posting the video to YouTube, where it has received more than 20 million hits. Both father and daughter shamed one another in a very public forum. Worse, in my view, their words and actions are now documented for posterity. And this is the connection to Hallmark holidays.

The "Hallmark" label, of course, implies these holidays were invented or popularized for the primary purpose of selling greeting cards and other merchandise. I resent marketing that makes a purchase seem obligatory, be it a diamond engagement ring or a card on February 14. Yet I’m a sap for terms of endearment on a folded piece of card stock tucked in an envelope addressed to me. (Except when the terms of endearment rhyme. That’s just too sappy.) I’m grateful when someone takes time to express their love or appreciation or concern, even when a calendar designation and a stranger’s words facilitate that expression.

A Valentine card from my parents, 1980
I don’t think I’ve shared this with anyone outside my family—and I know I haven’t fessed up since Hoarders became a cable phenomenon—but I’ve archived every piece of personal mail I’ve received since first grade and several greeting cards dating back to my first birthday. I’m a writer; words matter to me. I’ve preserved the words that matter most particularly, reminding me of people I’ve cared about and who have cared about me: construction paper get well cards from my classmates after my first eye surgery, handwritten letters from my dear grandmothers, and yes, Valentines spanning three and a half decades and representing dozens of people who have touched my life.

A Valentine from my co-blogger DB, 1989

A good luck card from my co-blogger SG, 1998

A card and letter from my co-blogger Suzyn, signed "Love you til Dewey does SlimFast," 1994
I’m not crazy about candy hearts and red hots. My kids don’t need a pink or red stuffed bear/dog/cat/lion to commemorate the holiday. But giving them Valentine cards, and helping them address their own cards, documents that on this day we said “I love you.” That’s worth doing, whether it’s obligatory or not.

I hope the laptop shooter agrees and gives his daughter a Valentine this year. Maybe he’ll read it aloud on YouTube for good measure.

posterity - 1. the offspring of one progenitor to the furthest generation 2. all future generations


  1. OMG. just remembered who "Dewey" is/was. irreverent little shit, wasn't I? I'm so glad you have the '94 me archived in a box somewhere.

  2. It took me a while to make the connection too, Sue. I laughed out loud even before I remembered, and then again afterward.

  3. Heh heh heh. I know who Dewey is. You were in high school; it was your job to be irreverent. And he looked like a vintage Campbell's Soup kid.

  4. It took me a bit, but Dewey finally came to me. Classic. I will never forget the days I spent in his classes with Claire discussing the arrangement (or rearrenagement) of his body parts. You weren't the only irreverent one. Still, I wish there were more teachers like him.

  5. I'm also guilty of irreverence. After he told our calculus class we should take notes on the days he spent answering questions at the blackboard, Kathy G. and I started transcribing everything he said. We thought we were hilarious.

  6. And I agree with Tammy. He was a good teacher.