Tom’s World — Valentine (back in the) Day
By Tom Westfall
Well before political correctness dictated that if you gave anyone a valentine, you had to give EVERYONE a valentine the anticipation and anxiety associated with this day was created by the reality that your box could be filled with valentines from all of your classmates; or you could be a proverbial Charlie Brown and only get a card from someone whose parents, even back then, understood that it wasnt polite to shun anyone.
For Charlie Brown, it was the little red-haired girl that caused him great angst. He never did receive a valentine from her and as he so famously opined, nothing ruins a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, like unrequited love.
For me in first grade, it was Sue Ann Cleveland. She was the most interesting, beautiful girl Id ever seen and I was sure that Valentines Day was going to be the perfect opportunity to declare, via a steamy valentine, my intentions of being her boyfriend.
There were twenty-some kids in my first grade class in Cynthiana, Indiana. Valentines back then, cost about a penny a piece and came in packages of 15. This meant that in order to get enough valentines to insure that everyone in my class received one (yes, my mom was one of those) I had to purchase two packages. The advantage was that this meant a doubling of the really good valentine messages (such as the little train engine with the quip, I choo-choo-choose you.) The disadvantage was that this also meant that several of my classmates were destined to receive the same valentine, a social faux pas even by first grade standards.
Oh well, never mind the disadvantages; I knew that I had to select the very finest valentine for Sue Ann, one that would let her know that I was her knight in shining armor. I scraped together thirty cents (collected pop bottles in the alleys in town for a couple of weeks, and redeemed them at 2 cents a bottle) and headed off to the drug store to purchase the vehicle through which my message of undying love would be revealed.
Upon arriving home, I ripped open the package and began rummaging through them, trying to find the perfect one that would accurately reflect my infatuation. I immediately eschewed the one with the elephant that said, Ill never forget youre my Valentine. After all, I didnt want her associating elephants with my admiration. I did briefly consider the one that pictured a cowboy with a lasso saying, Sure as shootin I want to rope you as my Valentine.
I was blessed that in the two packages I purchased, there were a number of cards that just said, Howdy Pardner; Happy Valentines Day. This was the card I choose for just about everyone else in the class, especially the boys. I did run short and had to give several classmates a card featuring a ship blowing its horn, saying, Toot, toot; lets be Valentines.
I did note that in the package there were several cards spotlighting smiling girls who were saying things like, My tulips are for you, Valentine, and Ill be sew nice to you if youll be mine. Hope sprung eternal.
Ultimately, the card I choose for Sue Ann featured a large ear of corn that read, Its corny to say, but shucks Id like to ear you say that youll be my Valentine today. This card had it all; a clever witticism all wrapped up in the ultimate statement of my unending fidelity.
On Valentines Day we all brought our cards to school and placed them in each others shoe box. Late afternoon arrived and the party was on. I watched in eager anticipation as Sue Ann opened hers. I saw her smile; then chuckle. It had to be my card but as I saw her scanning the room, she caught someone elses eye and sort of blushed. This couldnt be happening. Someone else had stolen my thunder.
I sat numbly staring into space. Finally I opened my cards. Mostly they said, Howdy Pardner When I got to Sue Anns I paused, took a deep breath and opened it. It featured a girl in a row boat saying, Valentine, youre swell.
Westfall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.