Valentine's Day is the official holiday of romance, and yet our memories of Feb. 14 aren't always the stuff of poetry.
As the Irish novelist and playwright Oscar Wilde once said, "The very essence of romance is uncertainty."
So when we asked readers to share their Valentine's Day memories, the several dozen stories we received ranged from sweet and sentimental to slapstick and calamitous.
Students of human behavior also may find it worth noting that all of the stories were sent by women. Here are some of the tales they told — not all lace, paper flowers and candy hearts, but still fun:
MY PARTNER AND I had a lovely Valentine's evening planned in 2010; we were going to keep it low-key, going to a local Santa Rosa restaurant for a set menu.
The evening of the 13th, I was slicing zucchini for a late-night stir-fry I was preparing for us to eat. I was using a new tool: a beautiful white ceramic knife. Ceramic knives, if you haven't heard, are very, very sharp. I looked down and, lo and behold, I had sliced my finger.
I, being stubborn, refused to cancel the Valentine's Day plans. So, the next night, we showed up to the restaurant, me with a huge bandage immobilizing my throbbing, painful index finger.
When the filet mignon came as the entree course, I looked at it almost in tears: there was no way my pathetic injured finger could handle cutting this lovely piece of meat!
My partner, being the gentleman he is, took pity and cut my meat for me, to the wait staff's and other patrons' amusement. And all was well in the world.
— Arielle Kubu-Jones, Santa Rosa
WHEN I HAD BEEN LIVING ALONE for quite some time, I came home on Valentine's Day and my door was plastered with hand-cut, construction-paper Valentines. It was such a surprise, I called my daughter to thank her. She said it wasn't her.
After a couple of days, I found out the deed was done by a new acquaintance. We continue to be good friends. I loved it so much I left them up. There was still one left on the next year's Valentine's Day.
— Jennifer McIntosh-Wright, Santa Rosa
OUR BEST VALENTINE'S DAY was our second one as a married couple, and it will always be our best, as we were in the hospital busy birthing our first son, Christopher.
While I can't say it was the most romantic, it was indeed the sweetest and most memorable. We will always remember where we were on February 14, 1972!
— Virginia Greenwald, Cloverdale
SOMETIME AROUND 1990, I had an unforgettable Valentine's dinner ... at the Farm House Restaurant in Olema. There was a bad storm but we decided to try it anyway.
When we arrived, the area had lost power but the restaurant was still open and had paper-bag lanterns along the porch. There was a fireplace lit and, of course, they had to use candles for lighting.
They couldn't cook, but we had a cold appetizer, salad, soup that was kept warm on a pilot light, and a great chocolate dessert.
At one point we saw a lantern swinging outside through the pouring rain on our window. A server told us someone was out there in the herb garden. They couldn't have been more romantic, even with power. To this day, I think about the ingenuity of making the very best out of a bad situation.