All about Valentine's Day

I’ve never had much luck with Valentine’s Day. I didn’t even know what it was until I got to the first grade. Miss Carolyn came in one morning in February and announced that “each boy and girl in the class had to buy and give a Valentine card to every person in the class.”

I would have said that sounds like Communism to me…...but then, I’d never heard of Communism either at the time. It’s kinda frightful what you don’t know in the first grade.

For once money was not the problem. Mother took us down to the Ben Franklin Store where you could buy a package of fifty cards for less than a quarter. What I didn’t like was laying one of those small, red and white, single sheet cards on Pam Collins’ desk that read, “Be Mine Forever.”

That seemed like a pretty strong commitment for a six year old!

I didn’t dislike Pam. We’d been to church together. We both went to Miss Katy’s kindergarten over on West Cherry Avenue. And we’d been held captive in the same room for over half a year in the first grade. There wasn’t anything personal about my hesitation to jump on the Valentine bandwagon. The problem was that time moved slower than molasses at the bottom of a mine shaft in a Klondike gold camp in 1953…..and we’re talking about “FOREVER!”

Vicki Fields might beat me up if I signed my name and dropped one of those cards on her desk. We had some pretty rough girls that first year of school. And I sure didn’t have any desire to get one of those “Love You” or “You’re My Favorite” messages from any of them.

And listen, we also had to give each boy in class a card! I was about to quit school “forever” when I noticed Bobby Brewer wasn’t even reading his cards. He was quietly folding them into little airplanes and shooting them towards Suzie Cozart’s desk two aisles over.

By junior high I’d given out thousands of those cheap Valentine cards without reading a one of them. I could, however, fold them into a single engine Japanese Zero or a P-38 Lightning or, if it was a full size card, I could turn it into a B-29 Bomber in a nanosecond.

Diane Stoner changed my whole thinking about Valentine’s Day, Cupid and girls in general. I was in the ninth grade. She was two years older and naturally didn’t even know I existed. But gosh, she was beautiful, could play basketball like you wouldn’t believe and had a smile that lit up the whole world.

I wouldn’t speak to her mind you. But I’d see her in the hall between classes and sometimes I’d nonchalantly stroll by her table at lunch. I would have died a thousand deaths before I would have told anyone how I felt. But I sure needed to get one of those “Be Mine” messages to her.

I spent the first week of February at the Valentine card section of Motheral’s Drugstore. I read every card he had. Twice! This thing had to be right. Perfect! Mrs. Mitchum spotted me, somehow grasped my dilemma, and quietly and discreetly made a few suggestions on what a young lady might like “from a serious suitor.”

I bought the best card the store offered. And signed my name to it! I thought about sticking it in her locker, handing it to her as we passed in the hall, mailing it to her, folding it into an airplane and gliding it onto her lunchroom table……

The day after Valentine’s, I tore the card up and dropped it into the wastebasket under the kitchen sink. Diane Stoner was way out of my league. And a bit too old and too pretty to get a “Love You Forever” message from a ninth grader.

I’m telling you, this Valentine card giving business is confusing when you don’t want to give them…..and when you do!

The girl I started dating over in Huntingdon simplified my Valentine thinking. She’d pick out the card she wanted me to give her. And she demanded one of those heart shaped boxes of chocolates. Leon saw me leaving with the candy and schooled me a little bit. “Kes, don’t waste that candy on a girl from Huntingdon. Right as she’s about to take the first bite ask her innocent like if she hadn’t gained a little weight since your last date.”

I came home with the whole box…..untouched! Billie Jean decided after some careful thought, she wasn’t much of a chocolate fan after all.

And I have kicked myself ever since for not telling Leon right up front about Diane Stoner……