Written by: Mary Ann Winters
Date: February 10, 2016

Valentine red heart with Love written on it

Valentine’s Day Photo: Elln B/Flickr

One of my favorite grade school memories occurred when I was attending the Ramey Air Force Base School in Puerto Rico, for military dependents. My First Grade teacher, Mrs. Goff, made quite an impression on me.  Her name immediately comes to mind when I recall those days. That’s amazing, since I just misplaced my cell phone for the third time today.   

She was very petite, wore glasses, and she was always nice.  This favorite event began when Mrs. Goff made a very important announcement – we would be decorating our Valentine Boxes the following week!

My imagination ran wild with visions of a box encased in hearts and flowers; absolutely overflowing with Valentines from my classmates. Unfortunately, I was about to be introduced to new life lessons.  One involved my lack of artistic talent, and the other gave me insight into how mean other kids could be.

Each afternoon we attended music class.  As we sang and danced the Hokey-Pokey, I observed the other kids, pondering who might be worthy to receive my Valentines.  Following music class, we spent the remaining hour of the school day working on transforming our shoe boxes into a thing of perfect beauty.

In the 1950’s there were no left-handed scissors and my small hands were inept with the basic required skill of cutting paper.  The outcome was jagged edges and lopsided hearts.  Our white glue jars had a built-in brush with the handle protruding through the red lid to eliminate drips.  That lid kept getting in my way, and most of the glue failed to reach its intended destination; it covered my shoe.  Mrs. Goff was so nice and never yelled at us.  She helped me clean up my mess and suggested I add some of the white lacy paper doilies to improve my creation.

For one full week, we continued to spend the last hour of the school day creating our masterpieces.  All the paper, glue, ribbons, glitter and other gaudy decorations were about used up when Mrs. Goff finally told us to finish up and move our boxes from the craft area over to our desks; it was February 13.

I had been working at home each evening that week, carefully coloring Valentines for my friends.  My Mom cut out big red construction paper hearts and I wrote a special message in each one, folded it over and wrote the name of the recipient on the outside.  So I was totally prepared for the big day, or so I thought.

The following day, back in the classroom from afternoon recess, we were all in our seats with our beautiful Valentine Boxes perched on our desks.  Mrs. Goff said our usual music and craft time would be devoted to our Valentine’s Day Party and then explained how we would distribute our Valentines. 

“You will all stay seated and one at a time you will walk around the room and put your Valentines into the boxes.  When you finish, please sit down and the next student will distribute their Valentines.  When we’re all finished, the Room Mothers have brought cookies and red Kool-Aid for everyone. 

So, while you’re enjoying your refreshments, you can open your boxes and read your cards.  Any questions?  Before you get started, I want to give each of you a special Valentine from me,”  she said, quickly distributing red envelopes to her adoring students.

Everything sounded fine to us, especially the snack part, and then it began.  The first girl, my friend Bobbie, walked around the room with her cards.   Everyone was happy and expectant, keeping their eyes on Bobbie as she went around putting her cards through the slot in the selected boxes.  You could see their smiles fade if she skipped over them to the next person she liked.

Finished, Bobbie sashayed around the long way to her desk, adjusting the ribbons in her long dark braids as she scooted into her seat.  The performance continued, child by child, over and over.  Needless to say, but I will – some kids didn’t receive many cards and some had too many to fit in their box.  I received cards from my friends and some of the other kids but not as many as the popular kids, and everyone knew exactly who was popular.

At a recent family dinner, I asked my grandsons if they ever made Valentine Boxes in school ;  the 25 and 14 year-olds said yes and one recalled winning a prize for his;  but the 8-year-old had no idea what they were talking about.

With today’s “Everyone gets a trophy/no classroom parties” mantra, I would never have learned these important life lessons which have served me well:

  1. Your Valentine Box may be full of cards; but most may lack in sincerity, and will likely crumble over the years.  However:  If you have a few really good friends, and cherish them, they’ll be with you forever.
  2. Artistic creativity is definitely in the eye of the beholder.  My Mom loved my Valentine Box and kept it on the table at  home till Easter.

I’m sure you are thoughtful and generous with the special people in your life when celebrating this day of love, and I hope you’ll accept a little challenge for yourself this year.

Can you think of a simple way to make someone’s Valentine’s Day Happy?

How about a card for an elderly neighbor?

Cookies for your local Police/Fire Station?

Packages of candy hearts left on co-workers’ desks?

You get the idea!

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