Standing at the gas pump the other morning, the only thing that kept me from boiling over with rage at the at the high price of fuel was the fact that a west wind was blowing and I felt colder than the other day when it was 2 below..yet sunny and calm. February is that kind of month. The temperature can have huge swings but I’ve always felt that by the time Valentine’s Day arrives, we’ve crossed an imaginary line in the snow; a seasonal barrier that means it’s finally okay to go ahead and believe that, despite the very real possibility of a March blizzard or two, the mild breezes of spring will be showing up soon to muscle winter out of the way.
I remember lots of warm Valentine’s Days from my youth. Or maybe it was the kind of warmth you feel when flushed with nervous anticipation and fear of extreme embarrassment over the exchange of Valentine cards with my classmates. It was an annual ritual we had all through grade school.
On Valentine’s eve, Mom and I would sit at the kitchen table with paste and construction paper transforming an old shoe box into a colorful container for all the Valentines I expected to get the next day. Of course in order to receive, one must give so we’d spend considerable time going down the list of fellow students who were to get a Valentine from me then sign each one and put it in an envelope. It was a tough job. You sure didn’t want to give anything too lovey dovey to the guys on the list..or to certain girls who you’d just as soon skip altogether except your mom says that would hurt their feelings.
It was a fine line between the other girls; those who I thought were okay..those I liked and then there was that special one..the one Elvis sang about in his song All Shook Up.” She was beautiful in her pleated skirt and angora sweater.(“My tongue goes tied when I try to speak; my insides shaken like a leaf on a tree.”) Part of the attraction, I suppose, was knowing she was unattainable. How could she like a chubby big-eared kid like me? But I had to make my feelings known so, instead of just signing my name on her Valentine, I nervously wrote “Love” Doug at the bottom. It was an incredible display of pent up passion for a shy Norwegian but it had to be done.
We’d all bring our Valentine boxes to school and place them on a table next to our name. Then during recess or over lunch, everyone would stuff them with Valentines to be opened during the classroom party at day’s end featuring Kool-Aid and heart-shaped sugar cookies with red frosting. With my heart pounding so loud I was sure others could hear, I kept glancing over to the desk of my dream girl hoping I might get a glimpse of her reaction when she opened mine. What would I do if she turned around, looked at me and smiled? But after she’d opened every one, there was nothing; absolutely nothing other than her chatting and laughing with friends. I’m not sure if I was devastated or relieved but soon it would be spring and next fall she’d be in another classroom. Out of sight out of mind perhaps?
When I got home that evening, mom, of course, wanted to see all of my Valentines even though most of them were the exact same ones as I’d given out because everybody bought their supply at Westaby’s store downtown. Then mom said, “What’s this?” as she pulled a little note from the box that had apparently slipped out of a Valentine. It was in a girl’s handwriting (always neater) and read: “Doug, Please be Mine.” “Who’s that from?” mom asked. “I don’t know,” I said.
I never did find out who wrote the note but I’ve chosen to believe it did indeed come from that lovely and equally shy classmate in the pleated skirt and angora sweater.
I hope there’s a special someone in your life who still makes your heart go piddy pat and will always be yours. Happy Valentine’s Day!