On the big day, each student dropped his/her Valentines in the pretty box and waited impatiently for the party to begin. In 4th grade, I had a crush on a boy, whose name I won't mention. I hoped he would give me a Valentine so I would know if he liked me too. Imagine my delight when I opened an envelope and found a card from him inside. It didn’t matter that a big, smiling skunk was staring at me from the card. I don’t recall the message from the skunk, but I cherished that card.
We had about 20-something students in our classroom. I normally had 10 cards to give away after the package was divided among my four siblings and me. There were never enough cards to give to every classmate. I fretted over leaving anyone out. I didn't want them to think I didn't like them.
Everyone knew the popular kids in the class "had" to receive Valentine cards. The least popular were lucky to receive half the number. Since I was timid, I fit into the latter group. I came home with around 10 cards, the same number I gave away. It made me feel a little rejected, but as I now ponder on it, I don’t believe this was a sign of rejection as much as a shortage of Valentine cards shortage in certain families.
Like myself, some classmates came from large families. I figure their mothers, the same as mine, bought one large package of Valentines and divided them among their children. With 20-something classmates and only 10 cards, it was a hard choice. If I had it to do over, I would address my Valentine cards to those classmates who would likely come up short.
It was also 4th grade when a boy named William touched my heart on Valentine’s Day. He walked into the classroom the morning of our party, proudly bearing a plate piled high with home-baked cookies, and announced, “Mama said we couldn’t afford to buy valentines for everybody, so she baked these cookies for everybody.” William’s eyes teared up as he proudly made his way down each aisle placing a cookie on every student's desk.
The cookies were soft, chewy, and delicious. More so, because William’s mother had sacrificed her time, and probably ingredients she could not afford to spare, to whip up a batch of cookies for a bunch of rambunctious kids.
William’s mother’s gift was better than the prettiest Valentine card any of us could receive because she put her love into every cookie. When someone makes a sacrifice like William's mother did, expecting nothing in return, well it makes the gift all the sweeter.
Do you have a Valentine’s Day memory you would like to share? We would love to read it.