Oh those sweet little Valentines. We all remember the anticipation of going to the drug store to pick out the pack which seemed to suit us best. Returning home we’d sign our names and stuff them in those darling little envelopes to be passed out during the Valentine class party. They’ll be passed out again in grade school classrooms across the nation this Valentine’s Day just as they have been for decades.
It didn’t seem odd that among my thoughts today would be Valentine’s Day. What did seem odd was the memory which cast itself with regards to Valentine’s Day; a memory from about 40 years ago, back to my 4th grade Valentine’s Day class party.
I had finished passing out my little Valentine cards and went skipping back to my desk. While most of the kids were still passing theirs out, I fiddled with the little treasures sprawled out in front of me. There amongst the array of mini envelopes was a larger one. It seemed out of place, not just by size, but also because it surely did not come in a pack. It appeared to be a handpicked card. With pencil, my name was neatly written across the envelope in cursive. Even though the hand writing was tidy, I could tell it was a boy’s hand writing.
Looking around at the desks near mine I hoped to see everyone else had received such a large Valentine. No, there weren’t any others. A troubling feeling came over me. There must be some mistake. No one could possibly like me enough to pick a Valentine card out especially for me. Maybe like me enough to pick a special one out of the normal pack but not enough to go through the card aisle at the drug store and then actually purchase it. Other kids will question this; they’ll make fun of me; they’ll make fun of the boy who gave it to me. I’m chubby and frumpy and not deserving of such a special card. But Renée, “yes,” I said to myself looking over at her, “she’s really pretty and quite popular and she takes dance lessons; maybe this special Valentine is for her.”
From my desk I took out a pencil, grateful it had a good eraser, erased my name and wrote Renée’s name in its place. Then, nonchalantly, I slipped the large envelope on to her desk. Sliding back into my chair, I let out a huge sigh of relief and began fiddling again with the mini envelopes still laying there, satisfied they were the ones, the un-thought-out ones, the ones without any name written on them, which I was entitled too.
What must Renée have thought? It never occurred to me to open the envelope, to peek at the Valentine tucked inside. Maybe my name was written on the card too, along with a tender message. How did the boy feel? Could he have been watching, hoping to see me smile at his sweet gift? Instead, witness with a crushed heart, my inconsideration and impoliteness of giving it away. What did the little boy’s mom think? Surely, touched by her son’s kindness, she willingly assisted and encouraged him to bring this sweetness to fruition and then anxiously waited for the school day’s end to ask him, “So, how’d it go?” With intense regret, I’m seeking forgiveness in an offense which probably has long been forgotten by all parties, except me.
What a silly, silly little girl to give up a heartfelt treasure; and why, for what reason; because I wasn’t enough; I wasn’t brave enough, confident enough, kind enough, deserving enough? Now, some 40 years later, I want to rediscover that very treasured Valentine, to hold it in my hands, move my fingers across my name so neatly written on the envelope. With great anticipation, I want to carefully open, pull out the Valentine, and admire every detail of the illustration on the card’s front. I want to, read and re-read the message; a message which was always intended for me; a message which would reveal, I am enough. That message will make me smile, smile at him, my sweet admirer, a smile of joy and great gratitude. Then I’d tell him, “thank you.”
How often have we deprived ourselves of a simple treasured moment or passed up a heartfelt gift because we don’t feel we are deserving enough, brave enough, confident enough, accomplished enough, or just too busy attempting to be enough? Right now, this very moment and the next moment and the next, we, you are enough. And, from somewhere within each of us, regardless of what year journey we are on, there is a little admirer whispering this message to us, waiting to see our response, anticipating our smile. Sometime during our busy week, may we indulge in the message, receive and open our Valentine.
Part of me wishes I could have a 4th grade Valentine class party ‘do over.’ But, even more, whoever the little boy was, my sweet, innocent, admirer, I wish he could know today how very special his Valentine card is to me on this Valentine’s Day of my 49th year journey.