Rhetorical question really as I took up dual nationality in 2002 so I AM American. Anyhoo, as many will know, Valentine's Day here is gi-normous - it, and Halloween, literally keep Hallmark in business. That's because Americans send Valentine's cards to everyone and anyone. None of that anonymous stuff where you only send cards to people you fancy. No siree Bob. (See, I really am American.)
You send them to grandparents, godparents and friends; teachers, neighbors, mail carriers- AND you sign them. I have a great story about a friend who was working in the States years ago. Valentine's Day came along and she generously went round the office offering to sign people's Valentine's for them (you know, to disguise the hand-writing. Boy did they look at her funny!
If you have children in the American school system, the run-up to Valentine's Day can be stressful and exhausting. Some schools lay down no ground rules whatsoever, so every child takes three pounds of chocolate in for his/her classmates, plus a card for everyone. Even in schools like ours, where they try to play it down a little, there's still a Valentine's party next Friday. With parental involvement. Oh yes.
We were sent a piece of pink lined paper and an envelope, and asked to write a Valentine's message to our child. (Just the 6 year old, I hasten to add.) Now one thing Americans do really well is gush about their chidren. If you tell a parent how sweet/ pretty/ well-behaved their child is they will usually say "Thank you" and possibly even, "Yes, isn't s/he? We're so lucky". And, before anyone takes this for US-bashing, they really mean it. They're not showing off. (For Americans reading this, if you compliment a Brit on their child, they'll usually retort with "Yes, you should see her when we're at home the little bugger." or "Hmmm, must have brought the wrong child with me." Psychologists could have a field day.)
So, I set about with pen in hand and somehow although I think the Little Guy is funny, kind and all those good things, I couldn't bring myself to "gush" as much as I know is expected of me. I always find popular words like "awesome" to be meaningless anyway. So I cheated and wrote him a poem. I think you'll find it still qualifies though:
Ode to Joy (He plays it on the piano)
You're kind and sweet and funny
Your smile is bright and sunny
You Make our Day
Whenever you say
"I love you Mom and Dad"
Your sister and your brother
Both love you like no other
You are our Joy
The Sweetest boy
A Family ever had.
And of course, it was duly decorated with hearts and things.
Not bad eh?