What is the best Valentine’s Day gift you’ve ever received. Ever given? What’s your favorite Valentine’s Day? Your worst?

The best gift I’ve given might be the iPod Touch I bought Cindy last year. She’s loved all the games and being able to check up on Facebook when she was nursing Micah. Except she doesn’t like playing Words with Friends with me.

The best gift I’ve received might be when Cindy agreed to go to the movies with me on Valentine’s Day despite that we’d broken up about four months earlier. I don’t remember what we saw, just that I was able to sit close to her again—and my sister who’d tagged along, which made it less date-like. (See “Caught in the Rain” for more on how our breakup didn’t take.)

My senior year in high school I tried something similar with a girl I’d dated then became “just friends” with—sort of like Jerry and Elaine on Seinfeld. We agreed to go out on Valentine’s Day but not as a date, just two friends hanging out, though I was expected to pay—I always was. I made a reservation at Chateau Basque, a five-course restaurant, though we got only as far as the parking lot. She wasn’t in the mood to dine among romantically-linked, Valentine’s Day revelers.

(That summer I worked at Chateau as a dishwasher and enjoyed the eccentric European couple who ran it. She might have remembered my name from my standing up a reservation, though she never mentioned it.)

That’s pretty much how our friendship worked. I was her stand-by friend. If she had nothing else to do, she’d call me. If she didn’t have a date on Valentine’s Day, she’d call me to see what I was doing. I think I was always kind of her backup, which is why I was anxious to tell her I was marrying Cindy. I was having visions of My Best Friend’s Wedding. We had our moments, though. And from time to time I miss my friend who was flighty like Holly Golightly or maybe the one Billy Joel esteemed in “She’s Always a Woman.”

These days we celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family. Why go out on such a busy night or pay for overpriced flowers (see “Spotting the guilty buying roses at grocery store”)? It’s also risky inquiring into babysitting. When you ask a teenage girl to babysit on Valentine’s Day, you’re presuming no one would ask her out. No, I’ll probably pick up a red velvet cake and grill steak, despite the freezing temperatures, and we’ll commemorate that evening Cindy let me take her to the movies.

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