When I was in grade school, my classes participated in Valentine’s Day card swaps. My classmates and I decorated small paper bags (or boxes) with red hearts, cupids with arrows and more festive symbols of the holiday. We placed the open bag or box at the end of our desks, and on Valentine’s Day, the students walked around the room dropping their special little cards into each decorative container.
I don’t know about the other kids, but I took this task very seriously. The first thing to do was go with my parents to the store to pick out the best box of Valentine cards. That took a bit of time because I was very particular about what I wanted. They could not be too corny or too mushy with all kinds of “love stuff” on them.
Once we returned home, I began the project by sorting the cards into categories. There were the very best cards for a boy (or two) who I thought I really liked. Then, the cards for friends and other okay kids. The yuckiest cards were for a couple of kids I didn’t really like, especially the boy who picked his nose all the time and the one whose pants were always riding up his … Well, you get the picture. We had no choice; the teacher made us give one to each student in the class. Each box of cards included one that was designated for the teacher, so I didn’t have to make that choice.
Then came adding the handwritten notes and signing my name to each card. The special boys and my good girlfriends got a little note. I always wanted to write “XOXO” on one of the boys’ cards but didn’t have the nerve to do it. On all the others, I just printed my first name.
One year, the box of cards we bought included a few extra, so on one I wrote “Happy Valentine’s Day to the Best Mailman,” drew a couple of red hearts on it, and placed it in our mailbox.
The next day, my mom called me to the front door. There stood our mailman with a big smile on his face and a big heart-shaped box of chocolates – for ME! He had also called the city newspaper and we got our picture in the Sunday edition. He said his mail route had over 400 houses and I was the only one to favor him with a Valentine.
Years later, as a newspaper reporter and editor raising kids, I remembered how I felt that day being recognized for an unselfish kindness. I was on cloud nine and beaming with pride. All children deserve that kind of recognition and special feeling when they do good things.
By the way, the classmate with the “ill-fitting pants” grew up to be sheriff of the county where we lived in Illinois. Who knew?
Happy Valentine’s Day!