Juxtaposed between love and despair, the heart — and its symbolic meaning — is at the forefront of today’s red-letter holiday.

Children will draw cards with iconic symbols, and give them to moms and dads and grandparents with giddy emotion and grinning faces.

Spouses and significant others will treat their loved ones with boxes of chocolates, balloons and perhaps a dozen of the fancy dipped strawberries now available in grocery stores or by an internet purchase.

In the two Virginias, Valentine’s Day is dawning with a frosting of snow and ice glittering across hilltops and valleys, roadways and sidewalks.

Rivers are emanating a frosty chill.

Mountains are capped with snow-crusted toboggans.

And a few icicles can still be seen dangling from rooftops — blades of winter’s freezing wrath dressed in a translucent sheen of gossamer whose shimmer through sunbeams is irresistible to the eye.

From Tazewell to Bluefield to Princeton and beyond, florists are braving the cold-kissed air to bring bouquets spawned from earnest emotion to loved ones near and dear.

Perfectly formed roses perched in elegant vases are whisked quickly from delivery trucks to warm doorways and smiling faces.

The slightest bite of cold can nip a rosebud – wilting petals, darkening blooms and decimating its allure before it can slowly open its velvety display of beauty and fragrance. It is an untimely death for one of nature’s fairest flowers — this demise in its prime before it has had time to cast its beauty on those around it.

Not so unlike the human heart, whose symbolism for devotion and passion has made it the ultimate icon of love.

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Do schoolchildren still give Valentines?

Back in the day, it was one of the favorite holiday traditions.

We would each decorate a brown paper lunch bag with our name and an array of hearts and cupids.

And we would buy a giant box of Valentine cards to sign and drop into the bags of our classmates.

Most of us embarked on this task with extreme seriousness. The perfect card would match our friends’ personalities and hobbies.

A Mickey Mouse card for the Disney lover; a card emblazoned with a horse for the bestie with a pony.

In the end, everyone received cards from all, and hours were spent opening the missives.

The day would typically conclude with sugary cupcakes topped with an even sugarier heavy pink frosting courtesy of the “homeroom mothers.”

Nowadays, in this age of nutritional reform and potential romantic harassment via card stock, I wonder if such lighthearted events are even possible.

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I have a cardiologist, and a blood pressure tester.

I write this because I continue to find it amazing how icons of the heart can change so dramatically in what feels like a few short decades.

As a child, I relished the cartoon cards with their images of love and romance. This year, Valentine’s Day came a few months ago when I passed my second stress test while staring at a poster of a real heart displaying cardiac disease.

One day, you are barreling through life at full speed without a care in the world. The next, you’re trying to keep the blood pressure down through lifestyle changes in an effort to avoid going back on medication.

West Virginians are known to have higher rates of heart disease. It’s a fact I have been aware of throughout my journalism career.

My mother had cardiac ailments before her death, as have the parents of many of my friends.

But, on a personal level, I didn’t take it seriously.

Until the wheezing, and the breathing, and the rapid heart rate, and the high blood pressure.

Funny how age can sneak up on a person.

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Today, the sight of vivacious red sweaters peeking from beneath heavy winter coats will serve as a vivid reminder of the warmth true affection can bring.

Festive heart-shaped decorations, balloons, candy and breathtaking blossoms will add to the cheerful atmosphere, warming spirits and moods on an otherwise winter-weary day.

If only we could take a portion of this one-day celebration that commemorates the icon of love – the heart – and utilize it daily to acknowledge the importance of the hearts within us all.

They, like the rose bloom in winter, are fragile.

— Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her @BDTPerry.

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