Ellen Yun loads Valentine’s Day gifts for her mom, sister and brother in-laws, nephew and her two children Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, outside a Chicago area grocery store. Yun said she had shopped for her husband earlier. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Ellen Yun loads Valentine’s Day gifts for her mom, sister and brother in-laws, nephew and her two children Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, outside a Chicago area grocery store. Yun said she had shopped for her husband earlier. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

A bleak Valentine’s Day in 2021, lovers find hope in roses, vaccines

People searching for ways to celebrate love amid heartache and isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic

The notecards poking from bouquets rushing out of a Chicago florist all carry similar messages: “looking forward to celebrating in person.”

“The notes aren’t sad,” said Kate Prince, a co-owner of Flora Chicago on the city’s North Side. “They’re hopeful.”

On this Valentine’s Day, North Americans are searching for ways to celebrate love amid so much heartache and isolation as the coronavirus pandemic stretches past its year anniversary. Some are clinging to hope, seen in the most vulnerable and frontline workers getting vaccinated, in loosening restrictions on restaurants in the hardest-hit places, in case numbers starting to wane.

Prince said florists are scrambling to keep up with the onslaught of orders from people trying to send their love from a safe distance.

“We are crushed,” she said.

Phones are ringing off the hook at restaurants in cities that have loosened restrictions on indoor dining just in time for Valentine’s Day, one of the busiest days of the year for many eateries that have been devastated by shutdowns designed to slow the spread of the virus.

In Chicago, the mayor loosened up indoor dining restrictions this week. After limiting restaurants to 25% capacity and 25 people per room, restaurants now must remain at 25% but they can serve as many as 50 per room.

The Darling restaurant is fully booked for this weekend and has been for weeks.

Sophie Huterstein, the restaurant’s owner, said COVID-19 has allowed the 2-year-old eatery to accomplish the impossible: make people happy to agree to a 4 p.m. reservation.

“People are being very flexible,” she said.

They are also this Valentine’s Day willing to do something else over a weekend where the high temperature will reach the teens and the low will plummet well below zero.

READ MORE: ‘Rapid, serial dating’ a no-go even as people expand their pandemic bubbles

“We have 14 greenhouses and people are coming out in full ski gear,” she said.

In New York City, the America Bar restaurant in the West Village is also fully booked for Valentine’s Day with a long waiting list and high demand for the newly allowed 25% capacity for indoor tables, said David Rabin, a partner in the eatery. More seats, along with the governor’s decision to allow closing times to move from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., has allowed him to give more shifts to his workers.

“For us, it’s a welcome gift,” he said. “It’s been great.”

T Bar NYC Steak and Lounge on the Upper East Side is also fully booked. Owner Tony Fortuna says some of his customers won’t dine indoors and he understands, but for those that have been clamouring to get back to restaurant dining, 25% is a good start. It gives people a glimmer of normalcy at a heartbreaking time.

“It gets everybody motivated, we see a little bit of hope,” he said. “It’s all about perception: you see people going out and moving around it makes everybody feel in a different mood.”

In Portland, a couple married 55 years has special Valentine’s Day plans.

Gil and Mercy Galicia have barely left their home in almost a year since lockdowns began, said their daughter, Cris Charbonneau. They had seen their close-knit family, three children and six grandchildren spread across the country.

Like many seniors, the year has been especially hard on them. They immigrated from the Philippines in the 1960s and have lived in their home on a half-acre plot for more than 40 years.

Mercy, 80, is a cancer survivor and has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Gil, 88, used to go on daily walks at the mall to stay active, but he hasn’t for a year. He is fearful that the isolation has set them back, and he doesn’t know how much longer they can manage living on their own.

RELATED: ‘You cohabitate my heart’: New Valentine’s Day cards reflect unique times

“We’re losing years, COVID has stolen this time that’s so precious,” Charbonneau said.

They don’t have a computer. When the vaccine became available, Gil called everywhere and couldn’t get through. Charbonneau was on a video call with them Thursday and saw a tweet from a local news station that the grocery store near their home had opened appointments online.

She was scrambling to get two appointments. She wasn’t paying attention to the date. She told them she’d booked them for Sunday, Feb. 14.

“That’s Valentine’s Day!” her father exclaimed and smiled at his wife.

“What a great way to celebrate my love for you.”

They hung up. Their daughter wept.

“That’s what we needed,” she said, “some hope.”

Holidays

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

This 2018 photo provided by Cris Charbonneau shows Gil and Mercy Galicia in Beaverton, Ore. The couple have barely left their home since coronavirus lockdowns began, said their daughter, Cris Charbonneau. They had not been able to see their large, close-knit family, three children and six grandchildren spread across the country. Like many seniors, the year has been especially hard on them. (Cris Charbonneau via AP)

This 2018 photo provided by Cris Charbonneau shows Gil and Mercy Galicia in Beaverton, Ore. The couple have barely left their home since coronavirus lockdowns began, said their daughter, Cris Charbonneau. They had not been able to see their large, close-knit family, three children and six grandchildren spread across the country. Like many seniors, the year has been especially hard on them. (Cris Charbonneau via AP)

Just Posted

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

Sarah De Klein and her family have created a team – one of many – for the Move4Communitas fitness challenge and fundraiser. (Submitted photo)
Communitas in Abbotsford holds virtual fitness challenge

Move4Communitas started March 1 and runs for 8 weeks

The Kimber family of Boston Bar lost their home in a fire. Blaine Kimber’s daughter created a fundraiser to help rebuild the home with the goal of $100,000. (Screenshot/GoFundMe)
Fundraiser created for Boston Bar family that lost everything in weekend fire

Witnesses say the Kimber family escaped the fire without injury, but their home is a total loss

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of March 7

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

The family of injured Willoughby resident Ronald Gerald Jesso is hoping someone saw something that will help solve the mystery of how he came to be so badly hurt on the morning of Feb. 22. Jesso is still in hospital. (Jesso family/Special to Langley Advance Times)
An appeal to help solve the mystery of an injured Langley man

Family of Ronald Gerald Jesso asks witnesses to come forward

Most Read