As a newcomer to Montpelier, Vermont, I’ve often wondered why no one has stood on Main Street during the night before Valentine’s Day to find out who the city’s mysterious Valentine Phantom really is.
For the past seven years, he, or she–or they?–has crept around the state capital in the dark, taping thousands of red paper hearts to the windows of stores and homes. In the morning, residents wake up to wonder whether they’ve been “hearted” and marvel at how their humble downtown has been transformed into a street from Candy Land.
What if I hid behind a snowy lamppost at midnight this year to see who’s behind all this joy? It’d be like Christmas Eve when I was 6, staying awake to catch a glimpse of Santa. But when I asked my neighbor Wendy to join me, she insisted that she likes not knowing who the phantom is. And when I asked Montpelier’s mayor, Mary Hooper, why no one has revealed the Phantom’s identity, she talked about people’s delight in “having a secret admirer.”
But the Phantom admires everyone, doling out hearts to anyone with a window and turning Valentine’s Day into a holiday that everybody can enjoy, not just people with a date or a wedding ring. Maybe that’s all I need to know about our Phantom, who brings equity to the least equitable of holidays. So perhaps I’ll just sleep through Valentine’s Eve this year, and hope I’m “hearted” by morning.