Wednesday, February 11, 2015

. . . BUT OH, YOU KID!

Young 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.

Our 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.

I 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.


We’d 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.

Occasionally 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
see 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. 
Being 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, at that).

Oh, 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.

Moire non, re:  Mr. Shug and My Lost Treasure.


Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Darling Rachel,

Gosh, what a forward girl you were sending all those Valentines! Surely, the idea was to single out your one and only 'true' love and, hope upon hope, that they would send one back! But no, clearly you girls of the south showered everyone with your Valentine favours......and, we suspect, your home cooking melted the hearts of even the most hardened prospective suitors.

Whatever, we have loved this recollection of adolescent Valentine Days. As you write, such sweet innocence.......

At least the store must have brightened up at this time of year with corn pad packets replaced by the gloriously colourful love tokens. How you made us smile at this!

And nowadays, how wonderful it is that your love is by your side 365 days of the year......not just one!

Patsy said...

Happy Valentine's Day!

GSL said...

My Valentine's Day memories were nearly identical in format Darling Rachel with every boy's mother insisting he get one for every girl in the class. I used to like getting those dime sized candy hearts and certainly do remember some of those girls keeping score with those same suspicions as to veracity.
At that 1st-3rd grade age, I wasn't yet of romantic notions and even had to suffer the indignities of getting them from my own mother and grandmothers.
That K-I-S-S-I-N-G taunt was to be avoided at all costs!!!

A Super Dilettante said...

My dearest Rachel,

I now heartily rejoice that I came to read this most delightful post. I was right from the start. You are a true romantic. How lucky it must be to be your friend or your fancy man in your classroom. And indeed, how fortunate it must be to be MR. LAWN TEA. To receive such beautiful cards with poems and verses would be one's dream comes true. Although they say that the best way to get into a man's heart is through his stomach, if there was such thing as poetry instead of an apple, it might have saved the Fall of Adam.

I do not know if children these days still do write their Valentine's Day cards anonymously as it used to be in the old days. Or do they all send their text messages via facebook or mobile phone? But it is not the same. Because their drawbacks are that one is bound to find out who is the person sending the text message.

I was explaining the sentiment and sincerity of romance to a young lady the other week and she suddenly yawned. Young people's mind these days is like the pitchers of the Danaides, it lets out faster than we can put anything into it!

I hope you had a lovely weekend with your loved ones.

With best wishes, ASD.

Martha's Favorites said...

Great vintage Valentines! Have a wonderful week. Blessings, Marha

Kim S. said...

I don’t know if they even do Valentines in grade school anymore. I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day and all of the cards and decorations. And my vintage-loving heart warmed to all of the examples that you showed.