Sweets for my sweetie

Valentine’s Day was my favorite non-get-out-of-school holiday when I was a kid. It seems like we started celebrating days if not weeks ahead as the teacher would take us through the steps to make our very own valentine receptacles. Sometimes they were simply made out of shoe boxes. But the ones I loved the most were the ones I could never have creatively come up with on my own. I vaguely remember a heart-shaped valentine's day kids crafts (2)envelope that was designed so that it would hang from the front of our desks. Various colors of red and pink and white paper would be folded into what must have been squares and triangles and then glued together by our sticky little fingers so that the top part of the large valentine provided the backing for the envelope on the lower portion of the front. I couldn’t make one now if I tried but I know I was pretty proud of it.

As Valentine’s Day would near, many of our mothers would volunteer to bring treats for the valentine’s party to be held in the classroom. We kids, of course, would begin our careful study of packages of valentines available in the local Five-and-Dime. Whatever we picked out couldn’t cost too much and there had to be enough valentines so that few if any were left over but yet with plenty to go around.

Mom’s rule made clear even when I was in kindergarten was that everyone in the class would get a valentine from me. No picking and choosing for this kid. Like ‘em or not, if I gave a valentine to one kid, every kid got a valentine from me. So I carefully laid out all of the valentines in my particular package each year, stacking the duplicates together and with my list of classmates I would carefully pick out to whom each of those valentines would be delivered. Those kids I really liked got the messages I wanted to deliver. And the kids I didn’t like, well they didn’t get the messages I wanted to deliver but something a whole lot nicer yet not as nice in my mind as all of the others.

One year I thought of a way I could personalize a particular valentine to make it different than the others. I suppose I might have been in third grade and there was a boy on whom I had a crush. We had those hard candy hearts at home – you know the ones with little valentine communiqués printed on them. Pretty innocuous as I look at the ones beingcandyheartsbig sold today. No “Twitter me” message. No “Adore me” or “Lover Boy.” No, just something straightforward like “Be Mine.”

The irony is that as much as I loved candy, I really didn’t like these things. But the flavor wasn’t what I was after. I was searching for the words that could convey “be still my heart because I’ve got a thing for you.”

I don’t remember what I picked out, but I found a combination of three of those hearts that kind of summed up how I was feeling and I stuck them in an envelope with the unsigned valentine just certain that there would be no way he would be able to figure out who his secret admirer might be. It never occurred to me that most of the other mothers were forcing their own kids to give a valentine to everyone so that if my name failed to show up on one of his, even as a third grader he could probably figure it out.

I’ve never been known for being smooth. I’m like a bull in a china cabinet both in terms of my coordination and my mouth. If I hadn’t known it by that time, I learned it for sure on Valentine’s Day in the third grade. As we took time for some silent reading before the party started, one by one each of us was allowed to go up and down the aisles and place our valentines into each handmade receptacle. I had already ordered my valentines so that all I had to do was take the one on top and make certain the name on it matched the person I was approaching and voila! my valentines were meticulously delivered.

There was, of course, one valentine that was a little more bulgy than the others. It had the name of my crush on its envelope. He sat at the front of one of our rows of desks, right smack dab in front of the teacher. I knew my opportunity was coming. And as I rounded the front of his desk, I grabbed for his valentine to hastily stuff it into his valentine pocket and make my exit. Then a combination of my feet heavy laden in black velvet saddle shoes, having to turn a corner and then immediately turning another corner to start down the next row of desks, and – the point of all of this – getting that envelope into his packet all worked against me. I think I tripped or stumbled over my own feet. The hand that held his valentine flew up in the air and while the valentine remained in the envelope, the carefully chosen candy hearts flew out of it and on to the floor.

It would be nice to think no one noticed. But a sound like meditation in a yoga class went through the boys surrounding him. “Ommmmh!” And one of them scrambled for the candy. He quickly handed it to my crush and told him it had come out of Gretchen’s valentine for him. I hurried on as best I could but my face must have been beet red out of embarrassment for my clumsiness and my anonymity being blown. Beet red. Valentine red.

I must have survived it and I doubt the boy even remembers but I died a thousand deaths that afternoon just trying to express my third-grade love for someone.

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” That’s what Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians. He wasn’t talking about romantic love but love as a gift of the Holy Spirit.

Still, when it came time for our wedding officiated by a Jewish magistrate judge almost 34 years ago, that’s the passage of scripture we chose to be read (as so many young marrying couples do today). It certainly wouldn’t fit on a tiny candy heart even though nano-technologists have reputedly inscribed all of the Jewish scriptures onto something the size of a grain of rice or smaller.

But every attempt we make to demonstrate our affection for one another, to sum up with sincerity and depth the care we have for one another whether it’s for a crush or a crush of a lifetime or even the person we really don’t like very much is a step in the right direction. Even though we might trip over our own feet in doing so, we’ll recover.

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