When I was 4 years old, I received a parcel in the mail from my Grandmothers. A shoebox wrapped in brown paper and tightly tied with white cotton string contained a greeting card inside wishing me a “Happy Valentine’s Day”. The card was particularly special because inside was a metal heart-shaped cookie cutter with the best cookie recipe for rolled butter cookies. Beneath the lumpy card was my first doll, a “Raggedy Ann” doll whose face is painted with the most sincere smile. What made Raggedy Ann especially significant for Valentine’s Day is the heart tattooed on her chest that reads “I Love You”. My Raggedy Ann had an additional heart, a pink candy heart that also read “I Love You”. I remember asking my Mom if I could have the candy heart and she told me that I could since Raggedy Ann would forever have a heart with the message of love.
The Valentine Cookie recipe became a tradition in our home. My Mother would make a production baking these cookies every year to share in our classrooms, for neighbors and at home. We all took part individually decorating the carefully rolled, crisp and flaky heart-shaped butter cookies. I remember seeing the cookies in stacks 6 high once they cooled, parsing them into equal numbers for each of the lucky recipients. Mom made royal icing from scratch adding a couple of drops of red food coloring to turn it the most perfect pink. From that first bite, I knew what “pink” tasted like! In the center of the heart, we positioned a candy heart with a selected message, just like Raggedy Ann’s. I topped-off the surrounding 3 points of the heart with heart shaped-cinnamon red-hots, later becoming a staple in our home for these annual cookies and Mom’s homemade signature pink applesauce come fall. I remember placing three cinnamon hearts to represent “Home”, “Family, and “Love” because “with these, what more did you need”. As I became the “Mom” and the daunting task of making these Valentine Heart Day Cookies became my legacy, I soon realized the huge responsibility with which that commitment came. It did not take long before I took a year off and made them biannually. With my daughter fully grown and family separated by many miles, it has been so long since I have made them and am long overdue! I have been craving them recently which reminded me of our “Heart Day” tradition and our reason for making them altogether…”Home”, “Family” and “Love”.
Extra love to "Dad S." (Arnie) for his appreciation and acknowledgment of my cookies and me. He took great pleasure in sharing his portion with others!