Valentine’s Day. Do you remember your elementary valentine days? I still remember decades later.
I recall learning how to make a large heart by cutting on the line the teacher had drawn on my folded-in-half red construction paper. Another year, we traced around heart stencils made of heavy stock paper. Once, I thought I was so clever when I was able to cover a construction paper heart with tin foil and imprinted “I love you” on it with a small plastic knitting needle.
I was given a list of all the students in my class sometime before the week of the love holiday. It was always the rule that we had to give everyone a valentine whether you loved that person or not. Thank heavens children’s valentines were very inexpensive or my parents would have made me make all of mine. Let’s just say I was not bad at art, but not good at it either. I sat at the kitchen table printing my name on all of the valentines, sealed them, and wrote each child’s name on the envelope. Parents did not write out their child’s cards then. There really were not too many helicopter parents yet. Through practice, we developed our own handwriting style and recognized each other’s handwriting on those cards. Sometimes, there would be a student with signed valentines but with blank unaddressed envelopes. I remember wondering why.
The Day Has Arrived
In primary grades, we wrote our name across the top of a paper bag, decorated it with crayons, and taped it on the front of our desk with masking tape. In the intermediate grades, we were to make our own Valentine boxes at home and bring them in to set on our desk the day of the party. We passed out those little valentines in white envelopes early in the morning. We could not wait to open our valentines after lunch. Heart-shaped frosted cookies. Red punch mustaches. Seeing who could withstand the most red hots at one time. Reading and eating little chalky hearts from a tiny box.
After the Big Party
I would get off the school bus and walk up the long driveway carrying my treasures. Mom would share her large box of chocolates. It was fun then, but things changed in middle school, high school, college and now. As adults, we do not have to pass out valentines to everyone, just to those we cherish. I still have some of those kept in a box somewhere in the back of a closet.
I never read a Valentine’s Day picture book before I went to library school. I do not recall any of my teachers reading one to us in the classroom. I did not have an elementary library where I could hunt for the red heart sticker on the spine. The only story about Valentine’s Day I remember was the special on TV that only aired once a year–“Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown.” I learned empathy towards others from that story. My heart ached for poor Charlie Brown.