that an innocent, sweet time of our lives---before we reached even the
lacy-card stage, unless we got into our Mamas’ treasured stashes of paper
doilies, saved for Bridge Club sandwich trays and for displaying neat rows of
Individual Iced Cakes for visits from the Exalted Grand Matron?Those small flappy bits of three-colour
primary frippery we passed around amongst ourselves were an annual treat; the
buying and the making and the careful lettering and the giving were all small
parts of a rite as old and as little understood as Love.And our own childish bits of the ritual were
taken as seriously as the two-handed meek offerings of any time-worn creed.
saved, we shopped, we clipped and glued---those knobby glass bottles with the
crusty rubber tops slid across edges and doilies and tabs, and the still-drying
gobs and telltale smears of mucilage were a lovable part of the whole. Errant bits of
paper, ribbon, lace caught up in the sticky mess have come down the years as
dear additions to those eagerly-proffered, gladly-accepted creations
didn’t understand it yet---just our own little corner of the “Like” and
“Looking at” world of the primary grades reflected in those three primary
colours of the shoddy small Valentines we could afford.But we were IN IT---Oh, Yes.
We coveted those
small slips of esteem as we did an Add-a-Pearl or an A on a report card---they
MATTERED in some uncountable way.They
were the votes in a gaudy ballot-box of approval, though it was unheard of to
leave off anyone from your list.
kept those Valentines from year to year in little boxes or scrapbooks like
medals or show-ribbons, as tokens of friendship and regard.The fact that everybody got one from
everybody else was not important---the GETTING was the thing.
carefully laid each little paper inside the pages of my Arithmetic book---the
wider of my two textbooks, for safekeeping in my book satchel.All the way home, we’d pause and take out a
few for more admiration.When I arrived
home, Mother was out at her Missionary Society Meeting, and so I excitedly took
them over to show to Mrs. P, who was sitting out on her porch.
walked out into the sunshine for better effect, and I laid them out, one by
one, on the fenders and hood of Mr. Shug’s Jeep as we admired them again.Then I stacked them carefully, and laid them
just inside the open back of the Jeep to pick up as I passed going home.
I can’t remember why
we went into the house, but when I came out,the
Jeep was gone, and with it my beloved stash of Valentines.I went running out the drive, looking
everywhere, and turned onto the blacktop road which led to the big river-bend
where he went fishing.Way up ahead, I
spotted a few colourful flutters on the road, and found three or four, much the
worse for having been run over.They had
great punches from the rocks, and the imprints of tires, and I can remember the
searching on and on with the tears running down my face, looking and picking up
the few which I could find.
I went on and on, following the bayou, and could see several floating on the green water like lily pads. I didn't dare step out into the swamp to retrieve them, and so they were lost to me as if they'd sunk.
next day when I came home from school, there was a brand-fresh unopened pack,
just like the one I’d so carefully lettered and “sent” awaiting me, from Mr. Shug,
who felt really bad about scattering my Valentines “from here to Sunday,” my
Mother said.A little balm for the loss,
and every year at this time, I think of that sweet man, sputtering heedlessdown that bumpy road, trailing a little
contrail of colourful cards like Love Propaganda---scattering my childish
dreams into the wind.
and sweet and innocent as these small images are, this must have been an ADULT
Valentine, or at least meant for teenagers, when I was of the
send-one-to-every-person-in-your-class age.If we first, second, third graders had come to school with such a racy
message in hand, ready to stash it in the big red box covered just that week by
our busy hands in construction paper and streamers of crinkly red crepe, we, as
well as the object of our momentary affection, would have been teased beyond
bearing.It was absolutely NOT DONE to
verge into romantic territory at our tender ages, despite the heart-strings of
the holiday. You'd have been hearing about tree-sitting and K-I-S-S-I-N-G til the cows came home.
little twenty-for-a-quarter packs of the small bright die-cut sentiments were
painstakingly chosen for just the right person, though the lack of variety at
Leon’s Drugstore limited us all to buying identical crinkly red cellophane
packages, with perhaps five designs total. They came in small swinging
rectangles, hung from the neat hooks on the SUNDRIES aisle which at other
seasons might have held corn pads or cards of needles, and the Valentines were
cushioned in a thin grey cardboard frame, like the cut-off bottom of a small
cheap box.The whole thing was sealed in
a thick, almost indestructible sheet of cellophane impervious to most fingers
and even our blunt-nosed scissors, though we were not above employing a quick
nip with two eye-teeth to start a little slit for tearing.
assume there was an unwritten law that you HAD to write out your Valentines the
night before, for I cannot remember any earlier contact save for the buying,
though I was known to lay them out like a gaudy game of Solitaire on my bed in the
days before, choosing the receivers by pattern or poem or whim.I was also not above putting an unobtrusive
small penciled number on the back, with a corresponding name on a line in my
notebook, until I could make that final important decision.I hope that I remembered to erase all those
furtive numbers, for I fear that more than one of us knew that trick.
carry our carefully-lettered little flaps of colour up to that big fancy box,
inserting them one or two at a time into the slot in the top with everyone
avidly looking on, hoping for a flash of their own names to appear as a card
was slid into the box, or for the glimpse of a secret crush, revealed to all as
the card disappeared between the ruffly overlay of the mail-slot.
one or two of us would have had a splurge at the Ben Franklin two towns over,
and might just have lucked onto a little cardboard platter from another
company, with quite different pictures and quotes inside the red cello cover.But most usually, when the giver-outer of the
Valentines stood reading off the names, and we’d go forward and receive our mail,
it was more like dealing out a big stack from a four-card deck, as the little
sailor dog and the bird in the tree appeared over and over, interspersed with small
Shirley Temple clones and windmills and mice.But oh, the heart-pounding moments as you waited, heard your name,
stepped forward with a trembly hand outstretched, and received another of the showy
little slips.I never looked at mine til
the calling had finished and the teacher took off the lid to
if any errant Valentines might still be caught inside.I’d made sure that every single one of mine
was safely clutched to my front like a nervous gambler, with the white side
hidden so no one could see who did and didn’t send me one.
limited to twenty when there were sometimes twenty-five people in our class was
no problem either, for quite a few of us girls would make special ones for a
few good friends, all festooned in hand-cut little hearts still bearing the
center-crease from the folding-to-cut, and with perhaps a little slip of a
ribbon bow or some of that squiggle-ribbon which curled when you pulled the
scissors blade down the length of it.So we never truly left out anyone, despite the limit on “bought” cards,
and I can remember only perhaps two girls who went around the room asking
cattily, “And how many did YOU get” or crowing “Eye got Twenty-NINE!” when we
all know perfectly well there were not even that many people in the class, and
the handwriting looked mighty similar on at least five of them (and similar to HERS,
for something so anticipated and pleasurable and fraught with delighted dread
as those little cheap, primary-colored bits of childhood.Weren’t we innocent?Weren’t we small?I know I’m smiling.
I consider the original “Love Apples,” with their regal little crowns and
shining skins, and the deep secrecy of plump seeds hidden within.
My children used to take them to school in their
lunchboxes, just like a banana or apple, much to the delight of their
classmates, who would crowd around for a taste.Thank goodness they weren’t fruit you had to
cut into segments, but practically the loaves-and-fishes of the fruit-world,
with a seed or two here, and a spoon-taste there, and probably a run on Piggly Wiggly not seen since the price-clicker stamped out 20/$1 on the Star-Kist.
not, as I did to my chagrin, think you can gussy up a pitcher of screwdrivers
by pouring in a good tot of pomegranate juice the night BEFORE the brunch.It was simply gorgeous in the pouring, with
the golden juice mingling with the rosy nectar in swoops and swirls, and
joining colours in an ecstatic deep poppy shade.
in the stark light of morning and whatever chemical change is caused by sitting
next to a pitcher of Lusty Marys (we all know that shady characters never influence UP), the totally breathtaking hue had morphed
overnight into the brutal tinge of a two-day bruise, all cloudy purple and not
a pretty one, at that.Enough of my
TRUE Love-Feast for my own Sweetheart:
he does purchase, marinate, cook and carve it himself.Hunka Hunka Burnin’ indeed.If he didn’t bring it in the house right
quick, we’d have enough guests and dogs at the door to populate a small country.And we needed them, for that great chunk of
beef, which we had the week after Christmas, when DS and DDIL were here for a visit from Mississippi.
a Happy, Happy Sweethearts’ Day to all of Y’all!