I am not certain as to when this day became a tradition. Even though we first encountered it as a child we still feel its touch if only a little. However after all the hub bub from the Thanksgiving meal to welcoming in a New Year January passes slow, cold and boring. Maybe just because of this it has become a solid tradition and has for centuries and I’m going to bet will continue way into the future.
On the day that splits February down the middle most of the world celebrates Valentine’s Day! It is a fact that on the 14th of the month our world becomes mushy and leans toward romantic. Why do we do this is really a mystery for the most part. Yes there are tales about a man named Valentine and how he showed his love. Also there are a good variety of different stories that are similar yet a little different. Even though we are uncertain the day still arrives every year and is greeted by almost all of us. I have found old Valentine cards that my father received from cousins dated back in the 1920’s. They show their age yet they resemble all the cards that have been created since then. Red with white frills and a heart shaped on it with some request that you be my Valentine were on the old cards just as they are today.
I got to thinking back to my days in school and how this special day was handled and I recall it this way. On the days leading up to Valentine Day we were handed from our teacher construction paper and some crayons. We then were instructed to draw a heart and then color it red and maybe a different color around the edge. After completion we were handed a pair of blunt nosed scissors (no sharp ones allowed you know?) We were to cut out the colored heart to our best talents and hope that it was still in the shape of a heart and then they were taped on the wall over top the chalkboards and above the alphabet letters that were in print and cursive. All those hearts gave the classroom some color and more than a hint of what we were celebrating.
The next day our teacher would hand out paper bags the size those lunches would come in and to this we were instructed to glue on a heart already made and print our names at the top of the bag. If one felt a little more artistic they could glue on some more little hearts or draw a cupid. It just couldn’t be Valentine’s Day without cupids in our presence. Beyond his name I don’t ever recall much ever being told about this character but those little arrows he carried around could cause you to be romantic if one was to ever strike you! When the bags were finished we put them along the wall under the windows and taped them up in a line. These were to hold all the valentines we were told we were going to receive.
So far we had been kept busy decorating and preparing for the big day. I know I was also preparing at home. My mom would go to the Ben Franklin Five and Ten cent store and buy me a box of valentines. Since there were about 40 kids in the class she would buy a big box with a lot of small valentines. The teacher gave us all a list of students in the class so we wouldn’t forget who to give to. So in the evening I would sit with my cards and the list and write who to and who from. First I would go through these cards and I tried to sort out the cards that I liked most for my friends and the plainer ones would go to the rest in the class. Most of these box sets of cards would have a larger card that was already telling the teacher you would be her valentine. (I always wondered just how the teacher pulled off having one just for them already made.)
When Valentine’s Day arrived we all wanted to be in attendance as the room mothers all would be there and that was a certainty for us to have plenty of sweets to eat and cool aid to drink. We would have homemade cup cakes and cookies and maybe even candy and cake. It is my understanding that these days room mothers are fewer if not at all and I have been told no homemade items can be served! Just one more reason I am glad I was raised when I was. Also there were these little sugary heart shaped candies that would have writings on them such as “be my Valentine” or “hot stuff” and many other sayings. I think they were called Conversation Hearts. As to these I see them in the stores when the day draws near.
As we were knocking back the good foods and sipping on a big glass of cool aid the main event would arrive. The teacher would have us line up and retrieve our paper bag from the wall and take it back to our seat. Then we would see just how many cards we got and hoped the bag was packed. My biggest fear was to be like Charlie Brown and not get any valentines but only rocks. We were all saved that scene as we did get many cards and sometimes a special one from a cute girl in the class. Most times that was only a wish but fun to wish for.
This is how I recall a super Valentine’s Day. A day of only good times and good people to be with. If you think about it that is for the most part what we look for these days too. But even though so much is made out of the event and the day and it seems like a good bit is spent on it also I truthfully still don’t know why we put so much into this particular day. Why not Saint Patrick’s Day or Presidents day instead. So I will continue to wonder why and since this has brought so much back to my mind I just remembered. I have to get my wife a real nice Valentine!
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.