Pat McDer­mott:

Pat McDer­mott isn’t a fan of Fe­bru­ary’s melt­ing heat, but has fond mem­o­ries of Fe­bru­ary 14’s mag­i­cal abil­ity to melt hearts.

The Australian Women's Weekly - - Contents - To con­nect with Pat on Facebook, visit facebook.com/PatMcDer­mot­tau.

fond re­flec­tions of Valen­tine’s Day

It was early Fe­bru­ary when I first ar­rived in Aus­tralia, more than 40 years ago. I flew from win­ter in Canada to sum­mer in Bris­bane. “Here we are folks,” an­nounced the pi­lot. “Wel­come to Bris­bane. Out of the freezer, into the fry­ing pan!”

The air­port, then called Ea­gle Farm, didn’t have air-con­di­tion­ing. Sweat trick­led be­tween my shoul­der blades and down my back. I de­cided it was safe to take off my woolly scarf. When another drip ran straight down my nose, I pulled off the heavy coat with the fleecy lin­ing my mother made me bring.

Still un­com­fort­ably warm I fi­nally raced to the women’s toi­lets and took off ev­ery­thing else I de­cently could. For­tu­nately the NYMOTH (Not Yet Man of the House) drove up soon after.

“Air con­di­tioned?” I gasped as he proudly opened the door of his pre-loved HD Holden.

“Ab­so­lutely!” he grinned. “Hop in. Open your win­dow and I’ll open mine. Then I’ll drive re­ally, re­ally fast!”

I don’t blame beau­ti­ful Queens­land for be­ing hot. I blame Fe­bru­ary. Wher­ever you are in the world, Fe­bru­ary is a hard month to love. It’s cold in Canada, hot in Aus­tralia and wet ev­ery­where else. On the up­side, at least it’s short.

Set­tling into Aus­tralia, I was im­me­di­ately im­pressed by the way peo­ple on the evening news talked calmly de­spite flies walk­ing about on their faces. After all these years, I still don’t have the hang of it. I flap and swat and ‘carry on like a pork chop’, to use a sis­ter-in-law’s cu­ri­ous phrase.

In Canada, in Fe­bru­ary, you walk to school fast. The snow is still thick on the ground but you can tell it’s start­ing to lose the bat­tle to stay ‘deep and crisp and even’. The long walk to school was made more in­ter­est­ing by oc­ca­sion­ally slip­ping and fall­ing or when a boy who liked you a lot put snow down your back as a to­ken of his af­fec­tion.

The only thing that made Fe­bru­ary bear­able was Valen­tine’s Day.

Miss McGil­lvray, who taught Year Two, had glossy black hair worn in a tight bun, which she stuck a 6B lead pen­cil into at a rak­ish an­gle. She looked like a cranky geisha but she ab­so­lutely loved Valen­tine’s Day.

She set out ‘con­struc­tion’ pa­per, safety scis­sors, bowls of thick white school paste, crayons, pa­per doilies for frills, and coloured pa­per for hearts, flow­ers and small stars to stick on at the end, glit­ter not hav­ing been in­vented yet. When we fin­ished our cards we pinned them up to dry on a makeshift clothes­line in the class­room.

The older girls had the­o­ries about why

Miss McGil­lvray loved Valen­tine’s Day.

They whis­pered about a bro­ken heart, a ro­mance with a tall, dark stranger who left with­out say­ing good­bye.

“You mean Pete the main­te­nance guy?” the boys jeered.

Some thought she was tired of Fe­bru­ary like the rest of us and wanted to brighten our days.

The next step was hid­ing them in friends’ school­bags or desks.

Your pop­u­lar­ity for the rest of the year and, prob­a­bly, the rest of your life, de­pended on how many Valen­tine’s Day cards you found in your desk or school bag.

The usual peo­ple got lots but even the kids with per­ma­nently runny noses, un­pre­dictable mood swings, chewed nails and, in my case, messy ringlets, got heaps. It took me a while to re­alise it was Miss McGil­lvray who made that hap­pen.

This Fe­bru­ary I thought I might make a Valen­tine’s Day card for the MOTH.

It will be in recog­ni­tion of our 45 years of mar­riage, five kids and too many cats, dogs and re­frig­er­a­tors to count. I’ll write “We’ve grad­u­ated from par­ties where the chil­dren played ‘pass the par­cel’ to the ones where they drink your re­ally good wine. What a mile­stone!”

PS: Thanks for pick­ing me up at the air­port.

Fe­bru­ary is a hard month to love.

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