When I think about Valentine’s Day I can’t help but think about the year two heroes changed my perception of the holiday forever.
You see, I’d been home from school for almost a week, sick with Chicken Pox. I was a miserable, feverish, red-faced mess. Bored and uncomfortable, I spent my days trying to stay quiet and letting Mom apply Calamine Lotion to my itchy spots.
I missed my cousin.
I missed my friends.
I missed riding the bus.
I *gasp* missed school.
My best friend and cousin, Debbie, did more than gather homework for me every day. She made me laugh as I slaved to complete the word search puzzles she’d crafted just for me. Words to search for included, “Bay City Rollers,” “Peter Frampton,” “butt,” “cute” and “groovy.” She’d write messages to me upside down, backwards and sideways, ensuring I had to twist and turn the pages to get to her super-secret message at the end: the message that always translated to “I miss you, too.”
But the worst part of being sick was the knowing – knowing I’d miss our much anticipated, highly celebrated Valentine’s Day party.
I’d miss lunchtime skating at the town rink followed by a hot dog lunch!
I’d miss cupcakes with whipped frosting and pink or red sprinkles on top!
I’d miss Valentine-themed spelling contests, teachers who’d let us put a record on the turntable and the chance to see who might slip a secret message to another.
And the coup de gras …. I’d miss the opportunity to place carefully selected Valentines into all those hand-decorated receptacles.
My misery must have been obvious because one day, a few days before the party, my Grandpa stopped by on his way home from town. It wasn’t unusual for him to pop in, but it was unusual for him to come and sit with me. Imagine my surprise when his farm-worn hands carefully pulled out a box of paper Valentines from the local grocery store!
“Here, I brought these just for you,” he said, his Swedish accent putting a ‘y’ where the ‘j’ should have been. And, with that, he helped me fold and tear along the dotted lines, all the Valentines in the box. He also helped me fold and glue together the envelopes, because, at that time, that’s how they came – in stacks to be sorted out.
“You just write them out and Debbie can take them to school for you,” he said, smiling. And that’s when I knew that the two of them had this all planned out … just for me! I watched in awe as this giant of a man, as strong as an oak and with hands as broad as baseball mitts, sat and carefully folded Valentines so a little girl he knew could still be part of something that meant so much to her.
A few days after the party, and when I was no longer contagious, Mom and Dad let me attend Open Skate night with Deb at the local rink. It was Grandpa’s hand that I took when my scabby-faced self strolled into that rink and it was my cousin’s hand that I grabbed when it came time to play “Crack the Whip.“ He left us to go visit with our Dads and other neighbors and we laughed and shrieked as grade-school girls do. And later, when we pulled our skates off our numb toes and ran back to where they were visiting and eating pie, our faces were flushed and happy. And that’s when we saw what we’d always known to be true – that their smiles were as broad and generous as their hearts. And that this is what it meant to be loved - and that love as deep and as wide as theirs had very little to do with red hearts or candy.
..:: Thank you Grandpa and Debbie. I loved you then and I love you still. Always have and always will! ::..
Do you have a favorite Valentines memory that you’d like to share?