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Valentine's Day stirs memories from childhood

February 18, 2014

My favorite thing about Valentine's Day is the part that involves children.
I know it's supposed to be the "day for lovers" and all that — and the flower shops revel in it, as they should — but the absolutely sweetest part of the holiday is seeing the little kids take pride in their Valentine cards.
As far as I know, when elementary classes have their Valentine exchanges, it's a mutual exchange all the way around. It would be really sad if one kid, for example, would get maybe two cards and the most popular one in the group get 100. But teachers take care to assure that's not the case. It's truly a card-for-card process.
I don't know how children go about this now, but in another century (it really was) when I was in grade school, we made Valentine boxes to hold our cards.
This was a big deal. For some with creativity oozing from their fingertips, this was no problem. They could make big flower-like creations with leaves for slots and blossoms for added flair, etc. Seemingly effortlessly, they could turn cardboard and crepe paper and stuff like that into things of beauty.
Not me. With my klutz-like hands, it became a major crisis moment.
My hands can fly over a computer keyboard and do some pretty fair things with a piano, but they don't "make" things. Crafts are not my friend.
Here's an example: Remember when contact paper first came out? Everyone was into using it to transform all kinds of stuff.
I thought I could redo my canisters with such and set out to have something really spiffy sitting on my counter tops.
What I ended up with looked as if it had been done by monkeys.
Back to the Valentine boxes. After many failed attempts, I would get my cousins to make mine. They were willing to come to my rescue because they had seen my pathetic attempts and didn't want to tarnish the family name.
One of my favorite Valentine's Day memories from childhood involved the late Bill Williams, who later became a Navy commander in an overall brilliant career.
Bill was a charmer all his life. Good-looking, muscular, smart, athletic, talented (he could make girls swoon when he sang), but devilish. Make that VERY devilish.
I think we were in about the fifth grade when this incident occurred. I was wearing a brand new angora sweater and corduroy circle skirt and thought I looked spectacular (I probably didn't) while walking on the sidewalk past his house to my house.
Near that particular stretch of sidewalk was a ditch that had been burned off for some reason, so it was nothing but charred grass with lots of loose soot.
Well, here comes Bill on his bicycle from the opposite direction. It never occurred to me that disaster was approaching.
He ran straight into me, causing me to fall onto that nasty, sooty mess and essentially ruin my outfit. I was mortified and cried all the way home.
Coincidentally, this happened the day before Valentine's Day.
The next day, after I had gotten home from school, someone knocked on the door. When I answered it, there was Bill holding a huge, heart-shaped box of Valentine candy.
He's apologizing, I thought excitedly.
Remember I said he was devilish? He couldn't just let it go with a nice gesture.
"Here," he said. "This is for you."
As I started to thank him, he interrupted me, saying,
"Mama made me do it."
Then he grinned and was gone in a flash.
The year we graduated from Cotton Plant High School, he and I were voted "most talented" by the student body.
Our photo in the yearbook depicted us playing marbles.
By that time I had long forgiven him for his mischief of many years before.
Bill died of ALS a couple of years ago. He really was a good guy.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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