Thursday, February 22, 2018

Valentine Traditions and a Tender Tale

Oh Kyle! I still remember you. My mind can see what you looked like when we were both ten. You were soooo cute! Secretly, I was smitten.

I think you glanced at me a couple of times. You might have even said hi. Did you like me the way I liked you? The Valentine you gave me is etched in my memory. So is my tearful walk home after school that day...

The bittersweet thoughts about my first big childhood crush came rushing in today. I've recently had other random thoughts about Valentine's day, since the 14th was just last week.

While the main focus of February 14th is romantic love, we (as a culture) have personalized it to represent any kind of affection we want it to! Fancy cards, chocolate and other gifts are sweet for anyone to give and receive, right? Whether they are lovers, family members or friends.

When I was in elementary school, I so enjoyed all the traditions of the season!

A few days before the big V, our teacher would let us spend a couple of hours decorating white paper lunch sacks for our annual card exchange. We were so creative with construction paper, glitter and markers! We labeled the bags with our names in big letters. It was fantastical fun for second, third and fourth graders!

Mom or Dad would take us to the discount store and let us choose our favorite kiddie cards. Looney tunes? Or maybe Disney characters. We'd get a package of twenty-five, just to be sure we had plenty.

We'd spend most of that evening at home, carefully writing a classmate's name on each tiny card.
Then we'd take our labors of love with us to school the next day, and drop them in our friends' fancy sacks.

School is school, so we had to restlessly endure a few lessons before lunch on Valentine's day. But afternoon was party time!

There's nothing quite like twenty cupcake-devouring munchkins, full of sugar and high expectations! We anxiously opened every single one of our miniature envelopes. Various reactions followed.

When I was in fourth grade, I'd chosen a special card for my would-be beau. I'd agonized over what to write on it. Just my name? Should I add "I like you."?

Honestly I can't remember what I wrote, but I recall being very nervous about how he'd react.

During the class party, I would frequently sneak peeks at tall, lanky, shaggy-haired Kyle. I couldn't tell if he'd seen my brave declaration of like or not. He didn't behave any differently than usual.

When I opened my card from him, my heart was racing! It had a boy baseball player on the front, with the message "I'm crazy about YOU, Valentine!" He'd printed his name on the back.

I'm not sure what I expected, but I felt a rush of emotions when I looked at the small token of friendship. Maybe because I'd been attracted to him for many months. Also, I'd been obsessing about the "what ifs?" of that day for twenty four hours.

Thankfully, it was time to go home immediately after the festivities. My face was hot and I had a huge lump in my throat as we were all cleaning up our classroom.

The bell finally rang. I avoided my friends and escaped from the school as fast as I could! As soon as I crossed the street, the dam inside of me broke. I sobbed during my entire walk home. I'd never been overcome like that before. It was very confusing!

Dear Handsome Kyle, I know now that I was too young to be so caught up in my affectionate thoughts of you! At ten, I was far too immature to manage feelings of being rejected by the boy I like-liked! Sure, I'd liked other boys before, but you were something extra special.

My pre-adolescent emotions that year caused me to have my first stressful, miserable Valentine's day.

A million people could have told me to chill, because there would be plenty of time for boyfriends when I was older. But their wise words wouldn't have made a difference. Human hearts are not as easily managed as pink paper ones. Not when one is ten, nor when one is fifty-five.

I know you probably don't even remember me, Adult Kyle. But I thank you for the sentimental  memories. It was all good experience and just a natural part of growing up.
I hope your Valentine's day was wonderful this year.