Heroes and Valentines

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!

mmm good;

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.

Heyyyyyy! I think I love you!!;

And the coup de gras …. I’d miss the opportunity to place carefully selected Valentines into all those hand-decorated receptacles.

1970s punch-out Valentines;

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.

My Grandpa, my Dad and me!

..:: 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?

Categories: Family, Friendship, Holidays, Life, Men, Personal, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

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38 thoughts on “Heroes and Valentines

  1. A lovely story, thankyou for sharing it.

  2. Priceless memories!

  3. Oh, what a precious post, MJ! I can’t tell you how dear and touching this is. What a special man! And how dear to have a cousin as best friend. I love everything about this post, my friend! Happy Valentines Day to you!

    • Thank you, Kathy. He was a dear man. Kind and strong, quiet and gentle. My Dad was very similar to him; neither raised their voices and their gentlemanly ways left a huge imprint on me. And having a cousin as a best friend – and she still is to this day – is priceless. We live in different time zones thousands of miles apart but when we connect on the phone (often) or in person (rarely) it’s as if we were transported back to our grade-school days. I’m so, so fortunate.

      Happy Valentines Day to you sweet friend!

  4. Crying…..! What a sweet, sweet story. I never knew either of my grandfathers, but yours was certainly a gem! How wonderful of him to do this for you. It’s easy to see how this memory comes to mind every Valentine’s Day!

    • I cried as I wrote it, Dianna. He was a good man. A real good man. I’m honored to have been his grand-daughter, I really am.

      And yes – every Valentine’s Day, I am reminded. What brought it back to the surface was my folding Valentine cards to put into the mail to my grandkids 🙂 MJ

  5. What a beautiful story – it was a great way to start my day, so thank you for sharing 🙂 Brings back very fond memories of my grandfather, and playing with my cousins as a kid. Have a wonderful weekend and a love-filled Valentine’s day next week!

    • Wasn’t it fun having cousins to play with? I’m glad my story took you back to those times .. and times with your Grandfather, too.

      Happy Valentine’s Day to you my friend!

  6. I feel something warm in my face and on my eyelids. So well written. Certainly this is a Valentine’s Day to remember.

  7. Wow MJ, I’m at a loss for words here.
    How incredibly wonderful of them both! Talk about feeling loved!

    • Thank you; He was what you’d call a “gentle giant” – a man of few words (my Dad was a lot like him, too). He liked to spread sour cream on his bread and then sprinkle sugar on it. He liked sugar cookies dunked in his coffee; he never drank or smoke, I never heard him cuss or say anything cross. Ever. He just didn’t. And she is one of the most creative people I know – those sideways notes were the best, and I still have a few 🙂 Hugs,

  8. That is such a sweet memory, MJ. I remember the white paper bags we decorated and hung around the classroom, waiting to be stuffed with Valentines. I also remember chicken pox, and my brother saying years afterward, “You can’t say I never gave you anything.”

    • Ooh – you helped me remember – the white bags that were decorated! Sometimes we used brown lunch bags and sometimes shoeboxes. Such fun, wasn’t it? Your brother’s saying is SUCH a classic brotherly comment – I’m sure my brothers said something to that effect, too 🙂 Happy Valentine’s Day, Patti! MJ

  9. Cute old men. That is a term of endearment for me. I love cute old men. And, MJ – you had cute old men in your life. What a blessing. This story was sweet, kind and wonderful. Thank you for the warm fuzzies.

    • I did and you’re so right – what a blessing. Your comments about “sweet, kind and wonderful” – they were all of that and so was she. Happy Valentine’s Day to you 🙂 MJ

  10. Oh, how sweet! Thank you for sharing this, brought tears to my eyes. I am getting so emotional lately, don’t know what’s going on…

  11. Beautiful, amazing writing about amazing love and amazing men. P.S. Boy did I love those little valentine cards and finding the best one for the boy crush of the hour, heehee.

    • Thank you, CB. I was very fortunate to have the childhood I had; I wish everyone did.

      And yeah, loved searching through those punch out cards and finding just the perfect one. hee hee 🙂 MJ

  12. I don’t know which I like best – your story or the photo of such a lovely lady between two such special men in her life. Hmmm! Good thing I don’t have to choose and I can just enjoy them both. Lovely!

    • awww, Thanks Renee. I found that picture recently and gasped that I had both of my 2 favorite men in one photo! YAY! Happy Valentine’s Day to you… How’s Gretel doing these days? MJ

  13. Memories keep our loved ones close….this is wonderful. Reminded me of my grandfather…I think of him as a very, very gentle bear of a man. Thanks for sparking that memory for me by sharing your touching story.

    • You’re very welcome; those of us who were fortunate enough to have their presence can unite in the joy those memories bring to us. Cheers! MJ

  14. What a lucky girl. Thanks for sharing the luck.

    • Thank you; I think I took it for granted as a child but now I know better .. not everyone had such a happy childhood. I treasure mine. Cheers! MJ

  15. This is such a beautiful post. You do a wonderful job of marrying your memories and images, and bringing the reader right into your world! I’m a little jealous…not sure my memories are as vivid as yours! I remember a lot of things, but your detail is really rich!
    Hey, a side note…I recognize that Partridge Family album! David Cassidy, my first love! Thanks for the trip back in time! ~ Sheila

    • Thank you; this particular memory is very vivid. I think because I loved it so much, it’s been carefully savored in my mind for years and years. And yes – David Cassidy was a little cutie in our day; loved the Pooka shell necklace and his shag-a-licious haircut! MJ

  16. Great post! I love those 1970s cut-out valentines!

  17. Deb

    Hey MJ, just caught up with you, and yup, you made me cry again!!! We were indeed lucky with our Dads, our Grandpa, each other, and of course the list grows from there. When you grow up with love, you learn the wealth that comes in sharing it. With each other as best friends we have everything we’ll ever need. Hugs, Deb

    • Oh I didn’t mean to make you cry, but I am glad you saw this. Yes – you said it best – when you grow up with love, you learn the wealth (and the joy) that comes with sharing it.

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  20. One of your best my friend, and you’ve had many. The photo of you three and the expression of your father is….priceless.

    • Thank you; they were both wonderful men – patient and kind, with quiet, gentle ways. I miss them both very much but was so lucky to have them in my life and know they’re sitting at God’s kitchen table, eating Grandma’s donuts and that my Frankie is getting fat under it, tucked in by my Dad’s foot. xo

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