There were several things about our annual church Valentine Banquet that I didn’t like. First and foremost, it was mandatory. I thought at the time it was one of the Ten Commandments. Or, at the very least, it was officially entombed in the Bill of Rights. I didn’t know the Baptist had a Creed back then, but I’m sure “Valentine attending” was listed down there between baptism and singing “Up from the Grave He Arose” on Easter Sunday.
It was held in the basement; the drab concrete walls not exactly reminding one of a table for two over looking the Seine or the Eiffel Tower. The worst part was they folded up the ping pong table and shoved it against the back wall for a whole week so it wouldn’t hold up the decorations or be in the way the night of the banquet. Plus, Mom always headed up the food committee or the set up committee or the welcome committee…… Guess who she always gleefully “enlisted” as her first assistant? And last, but not least, there were girls involved with this thing.
I was developing an unwholesome attitude about the whole cupid, red hearts, “Be Mine Forever” process.
It really started back in the first grade. Miss Carolyn insisted on each person giving every other student a Valentine card. She was almighty set on no one being left out! I’d just go down the rows placing a card on everyone’s desk. It wasn’t a big deal. Except an assorted pack of fifty Valentine cards up at the Ben Franklin store cost 59 cents. Do you realize how much candy corn I could have bought for the same price!
By the third grade I was not so comfortable handing Joe Galloway a heart covered epistle bearing the inscription, “Forever Yours”. Pam Collins could beat me up. I was afraid if I gave her the wrong card, it would make her mad enough to box me about the head and shoulders! Vicki Fields would outrun me at recess. You can’t believe how that hurt my pride—and Miss Belle insisted she get a card just like the rest! Jane Hill folded up her Valentine and slipped it to me when no one was looking with a hand written addition, “Do you love me? Check yes or no.” Good gracious alive!
The little, winged fat guy with the bow and arrows was growing more complicated with each passing season.
The church banquet was for six grade through junior high. Can you possibly think of a more awkward age? We had to “dress up” and sit four to a table, two girls and two boys. Obviously, our good Baptist deacons weren’t concentrating as much as they should have been on outreach and widow helping if they found time to put this scheme into play!
Every boy showed up in black pants, white shirt and back narrow tie. Every girl wore a white gown. I reckon that was a dress code right out of Ecclesiastes. I remember the cold roast beef, the green beans and the mashed potatoes. I remember the speaker frantically trying to get us to smile and enjoy the evening. Thankfully, I do not remember any of the conversation. That might have been because, mercifully, there wasn’t any!
I asked Leon after that first banquet about the true meaning of Valentine’s. “It’s a metamorphous.” He answered like that made perfect sense to him. I needed real help and he’s talking about caterpillars turning into butterflies!
The last basement banquet I attended I was a little disappointed Mom was not on the program committee. I was hoping to get seated with Ruth Ann Wiley. She was really nice. But I don’t think she even knew I existed. She was a good friend of Pam’s but, much to my chagrin, she had never beaten on me. She had the nicest hair and eyes…..for a girl. I can’t believe I’d never before realized the possibilities of one of these meals. Sitting with Ruth Ann would be more fun than playing ping pong! I wasn’t so lucky on this night. But she was just one table over…..and, with my hand up, the theme for this Valentine Banquet was “Beneath the Eiffel Tower”. It didn’t help. Ruth Ann dodged every arrow I sent her way.
And the next year, in the middle of a Valentine’s party over at Ann Carol McCaleb’s house, I slipped a card to Jane Hill with a hand written note asking HER to check yes or no. It fell on “deaf” eyes. She had apparently forgotten her third grade advances.
Life can be complicated to a fare-the-well.
I was buying into the Valentine’s theme AFTER the infamous horses had exited the barn! I was too old for the church banquet. We’d outgrown the mass exchanging of cards and the high school teachers were more interested in Shakespeare and square roots than they were our social lives.
But somehow, in spite of ourselves, the cards worked! Those elementary kids of so long ago turned out to truly “Be Mine Forever”. What special, special, life long friends! They let me write about them with a smile. They appreciate that I don’t “tell all I know.” They give me story ideas and grammatical help.
We “metamorphousized” together.