Opinion: How are you honoring non-romantic love for Valentine's Day? For me, it starts with my mom. (2024)

Renner is a communications professional and LGBTQ+ advocate. He lives in University Heights.

Every February, stores fill with heart-shaped trinkets and Valentine’s Day-themed candies. Many people dread the 14th day of the second month of the year. Those in partner relationships may feel the pressure to do something epically romantic. If you’re not in a partner relationship, it might feel more like “Singles Awareness Day.” While the holiday originated as a Christian feast day and evolved to celebrate romantic love — and to sell you things — for me, Valentine’s Day always reminds me of my mom. Not only does my mom love hearts, but she also loves going out of her way to make people feel special. Over the years, I’ve been lucky and unlucky in love, but no matter what, my mom will always be my Valentine.

For many of us, Valentine’s Day evokes memories of passing out cards and candy in elementary school. In my classes, we would decorate shoeboxes with construction paper, glitter and stickers. We were required to bring enough valentines and candy for everyone in the class and I looked forward to getting little cards themed with popular cartoons like Pokemon and SpongeBob. The egalitarian nature of these requirements made sense to me, no one wants to feel left out or unloved. So as a kid, it just felt like a day to celebrate platonic love.

That changed one year when I had a crush on my best friend, Chara, so I had to make her a special card. I cut out a big heart, glued my class photo to the center of it, and adorned it with a glitter border. My parents thought it was adorable, but I told them I didn’t want to take it to school and give it to her in front of everyone else. Their solution was to drive me to her house so I could drop it off. Still being too shy, I wouldn’t get out of the car, so my mom went to the front door, knocked and gave it to her mom. That was the first and last “crush” I had on a girl, but Chara and I look back on it now and laugh. I was better as a gay best friend anyways.

For the next few years, I didn’t have many crushes and I didn’t date anyone, so any romantic connotations with the day were lost. Since my mom’s love of hearts earned her the nickname, “the Queen of Hearts,” the holiday felt more like hers anyways. My mom has pillows, picture frames, towels, key chains, cups and more that are decorated with hearts. I know this is a common admiration, but for my brothers and me, it makes shopping for gifts for her quite easy. Every year when her holiday rolls around, I make sure to find something new to add to her collection and I hand-make her a card.

In 2021, I wanted to do something even more special; I decided to get a tattoo dedicated to my mom on Valentine’s Day. My mom isn’t particularly fond of tattoos, but since I have a collection of them, I figured adding one with a deeper meaning that she could appreciate while she’s still around would be a nice gesture.

Opinion: How are you honoring non-romantic love for Valentine's Day? For me, it starts with my mom. (1)

(Courtesy of Tyler Renner)

One of my mom’s catchphrases is “I love you mucho.” She would always write that in lunchbox notes, cards and in text messages. I searched my box of letters and cards and found my 25th birthday card with the perfect script, adorned with a heart even. I found a local tattoo artist who specializes in delicate handwriting and booked my appointment. Once it was complete, I sent her a photo of my fresh ink, still red and puffy. She called right away and after answering a few questions, “Yes, it is real. Yes, it is your handwriting. Yes, I am for real,” she replied, “That is one of the most thoughtful gifts anyone has ever given me.” Mission accomplished.

While I don’t have any more tattoos planned, my hope is that this essay will memorialize how much love I have for my mom and how Valentine’s Day will always make me think of her. So, whatever you have planned, be it a fancy dinner with your partner, buying yourself a bouquet of roses or sending your mom a card, remember that Valentine’s Day should be about giving and receiving love in all its forms.

Opinion: How are you honoring non-romantic love for Valentine's Day? For me, it starts with my mom. (2024)
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