February 3, 2014 By Steve Geyer Leave a Comment February 14th brings either eager anticipation or extreme dread; there is no middle ground… well when you’re in the third grade. Since Valentine’s Day has not (as yet) been labeled a “Politically Incorrect” holiday, is probably why elementary school teachers seem to go so far over-board to celebrate. With red hearts made of (industrial strength) construction paper and little inscribed heart-shaped candies a plenty, the naked Cupids strung about the classroom have many targets to choose from. In the third grade it didn’t really matter who sent you a Valentine, but the total number of Valentines is what determined your worth and social status… well at least until the 6th grade. After I had carefully made my list of those who were going to receive cards from me, my mom let me pick out the box of “50 Assorted Valentines” in the grocery store. Next came the little boxes of candy hearts inscribed with pithy comments like, “You’re Sweet”, “BE Mine”, “My Pal”, “Friends”, and “Kiss Me”.
My mom had suggested that I put my Valentines in alphabetical order and it seemed like a good idea until I realized that we were not seated in alphabetical order. To my left was Bertha giggling as she opened each envelope individually addressed and signed from each member of the class. I’m not sure why I remember this so vividly, but I think it may have to do with the first time I felt compassion for someone that I would have ignored. Preparing my  “mail box” which was actually just an old shoe box covered with white paper and decorated with glitter and glue soaked construction paper hearts, my stomach churned as I wondered if any Valentine cards would be placed in it. I had to be sure that I didn’t accidentally put that last one in any of the guys “non mail-able envelopes”.

I kept scanning the classroom wondering who was giving me a Valentine and mentally checking-off who was getting one from me. I spent a lot of time going back down the same row of seats that I had just been on a few moments earlier but, at least it was giving me the opportunity to see the progress that my mail box was making.
The “Super Heroes” assortment seemed a little too forceful, the “Barbie” assortment…. Sure, it was okay to give a buddy a Valentine but I had to make sure that it was “Goofy” or “Pluto” clearly stating that we were just friends and the candy hearts said either, “My Pal”, or “You Stink”. Diaz (who I would have left Cindy for in a heart-beat) called out the instructions for us to leave our mailboxes on our own desks and move up and down the aisles, in an “orderly fashion”, and deliver our Valentines to each other.
I picked it up as I continued my delivery route and opened it between John Albano and Randy Park’s desks.
Diaz knew the importance of acceptance and had sent Bertha Valentines from every classmate.
The evening before the class Valentine’s Day party, I addressed and signed each Valentine, carefully selected the candy messages and licked the “non-mail-able envelopes” (refusing the sissy way out; using a damp sponge as my mom had suggested). My childhood sweetheart, Cindy Jetmore, made me the envy of all the other guys in the class… Cindy could play basketball better than any of us. I also noticed the mail box on the desk just to the left of mine was fairly empty and shrugged it off, after all it was Bertha Roach’s desk. While Bertha was distracted talking to Darlene Dosal, I slipped my coveted Valentine under the pile Bertha had not looked though yet.

To play it safe and remain somewhat neutral, I chose the “Disney” assortment with the “Special Card for Teacher” enclosed, and “non-mail-able envelopes”. I knew the Valentine that she gave me would be really something because she had a great allowance. I never could understand parents naming a baby girl Bertha, let alone with a last name like Roach. For some unknown reason, “non-mail-able envelopes” gave me a sense of importance and that I was getting my money’s worth. As I glanced back at my desk and for some strange reason, it wasn’t all that important that my mailbox fill up any more. I replied with a smile and tried my best to wink, which was basically a blink and headed for my desk. Going through my Valentines, like everyone else in the class, I wasn’t interested in who sent them, just the total number.

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