In fourth grade, my desk was wedged between two Adonis’s. One with velvet brown eyes and matching hair, a farm boy. Another blond, tan and oh, so perfect. Let’s just say that going to school was a treat. I had my books, my favorite teacher and the opportunity to crush from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the two boys to the left and right. Heaven.
I often imagined that one of the two would figure out that I was THAT girl, too. With my large glasses and retainers — it was my dazzling personality that I hoped shined through.
But it never happened. Fall came and went, and we remained friends on the playground. The snow fell, and by Christmas break, no declarations were declared. But when school resumed, I knew my greatest chance just loomed around the corner: Valentine’s Day.
What adults don’t understand is the holiday isn’t really about them — their fancy dinners, romantic moments and dazzling jewelry. It’s about the kids (as is every holiday).
Whatever love we got at home on this day was nothing compared to the event that came at school. For we had been preparing for such an occasion.
That week, we spent a great deal of time (or maybe 15 minutes) decorating our “mail bags” — brown-paper sacks that we had glued glitter, paper hearts and had scrawled our names on (ever so carefully). We taped those love sacks to the front of our desks, maybe a couple of times, to get it just right. It was a proud achievement. But after completing the task, the worry set in. You see, it wasn’t just creating the “best” holiday sack; it was the filling that made the 10-year-olds anxious.
Parents took the kids down the red- and pink-colored Valentine’s Day aisle at a local store — letting them pick out the perfect hard-papered cards that would be handed out to their fellow classmates. It was a hard choice. You wanted to choose what made you happy (for me, it was Lisa Frank cards), but, but, but … (there is a but), you had to choose valentines that would be girl and boy friendly. Oh, the humanity. So it was hard decision. Choose what fit you. Or what others would find fun. And then you would settle in the middle. My middle was Barbie valentines. (Isn’t that a little more girly?) But the final choice came because there was an equal amount of Ken valentines mixed in for the guys (a little more manly). Then it was the candy. Sweet Tarts or sticks of pink gum? A choice that would last with you forever.
So that panic subsides. It’s sitting at the kitchen table with your class list deciding who gets what that brings your blood pressure up. You didn’t want to give a guy the wrong idea with a valentine that says, “I heart you” or “Won’t you be mine?” And if you had no feelings and even a bit of hatred in your heart for a fellow peer — the lamest, stupidest, dumbest card was for them.
I didn’t leave that anything to chance. The lovey-dovey cards were meant for the two hunks near my desk. They would get their valentines and at least one of them would get the hint. I was sure of it. And I would finally have my first boyfriend (if they had to fight each other for the honor, so be it.)
That morning, I took my valentines and casually threw the valentines into the right sacks. I gingerly touched the two valentines and placed them ever so carefully into their designated mail sacks. I prayed and thought and dreamed and ….
“Hey, thanks Carrie.” Brown-haired guy said. “Thanks for the gum.”
“Yeah, did you like my Garfield card?” Blond guy added.
My envelopes that contained my inked valentines torn to shreds on the ground.
My heart gave a slight jump, and then settled back into its normal place as the guys thanked the other boys and girls in the class as well. Sigh.
Oh well. Maybe next year a guy will figure it out and I will have my first real valentine.
(Side note: I thought that same idea for quite a few years before having my first real boyfriend during my junior year of high school. The wishing, hoping and thinking (and just please get the hint) plan just doesn’t work too well for me.)