My dear elder friend treated me to a glimpse of her childhood when she shared her vintage Valentines with me. At age 92, she is spry and spirited with a million tales to tell–all well documented via scrapbooks and journals and photo albums and letters. On this particular day, it was her Valentine scrapbook filled with wonders that had me awed.
Every Valentine she had ever received during her school years was neatly affixed to large scrapbook pages, yellowed and cracked with age.
Beside each vintage treasure–handmade and store-bought–she had hand written the name of the giver so she wouldn’t forget them.
What a host of memories her scrapbook stirred in my mind–and regret that I didn’t think to keep my own Valentines back in the day. But . . . more than physical vintage Valentines, is the one special Valentine’s Day I will treasure most of all–with not one Valentine card to show for it . . .
SCENE: 6th Grade Classroom circa 1970
Climbing the steep cement stairs to our third floor 6th grade classroom warmed muscle and bone after a freezing recess in mid-February. Red faced from the biting cold, our chilly legs under plaid jumpers or black trousers walked to our seats in anticipation. Thirty boys and girls sitting in neat rows facing front had long waited for this particular afternoon.
To be sure, there was no small excitement buzzing about the classroom once afternoon reading and history class was concluded. We’d all been on our best behavior so as not to incur teacher’s wrath, risking our holiday party. Modest as it was in 1970, there would be no parents descending upon the classroom with mountains of sweet treats and soda as might be seen today. The humble color sheet and relaxed rules allowing low level conversation with your “neighbor” was enough for us.
And, Valentine cards, of course!
As the books were closed, mimeographed purple-inked color sheets were passed out to entertain and keep us in our seats. A handful of select students (always the same few girls, it seemed) had been chosen to open the Valentine Box and deliver the little enveloped cards to our desks.
I was busy smelling that luscious ink on my mimeograph sheet and coloring same, when one of the delivery girls dropped off the first few little white envelopes on the left corner of my desk. Gleefully, I opened them to delight in the clever little images and witty verse of each greeting—looking to see who was kind enough to make sure I was on their Valentine list.
More envelopes were delivered and the low level murmuring in the class raised in excitement with splashes of giggles and laughter. I looked about at my classmates. We’d been together for six years in our small private school, and knew each other well—cliques, of course, but classmates all. As my little pile of Valentines grew, my heart swelled with gratitude for each of them.
But, there appeared to be a delay in emptying the rest of the envelopes in the box. The girls tasked with delivery duty were having a confab near the box. I wondered what they were whispering about, but didn’t think it involved me, so choosing another crayon I continued with my color sheet. Soon the girls were delivering envelopes again—but slowly. And stopping at each desk to whisper something before moving on.
That was when Darleen, placing an envelope on my desk, stopped to look at my color sheet. “Nice job,” she said.
“Thanks,” I replied, slightly perplexed. Darleen wasn’t one to just come up to me and start a conversation. She was in the “popular” group. A nice girl whom everyone liked, but decidedly not given to random chats with little me.
She bent close to me, though, speaking in a whisper, “Kenny and Sam don’t have any Valentines. Can you find a couple of yours and erase the names and make them out to them? Put them on the edge of your desk and I’ll grab them on my next round.”
Then, she was gone—skipping onto another desk and repeating the same act.
That wasn’t too odd. They were both the quietest boys in the class. They weren’t popular with the “in” crowd and they NEVER got in trouble. They came to school, did their work, and barely made a peep. Just not very memorable. Easily forgotten in a class made up of some rather outrageous young personalities—especially some of the more active boys.
I tried to casually look around the room to where Kenny and Sam sat—without looking like I was looking at them. There they were, just as Darleen said. Coloring quietly on their mimeograph sheet with not a single Valentine envelope on their desk.
Yet, on my desk I had a Valentine from each of them. I bet all the other kids in the class did, too.
A sense of grief welled up within me. What a pitiful thing—to be forgotten. Especially when the day is set aside to remember your friends with fond affections and a Valentine. It cut me to the heart–I had forgotten them, too.
Swiftly, I sorted through my Valentines to find two that were written in pencil and would be easy to erase and re-use. I found just what was wanted and set to carefully erasing the “to” and “from” and marking each with their names, signed with my name, and properly addressed in an envelope. Placing it casually on the opposite side of my desk from where my little pile of Valentines rested, Darleen passed by and swept them deftly into her hands with a little knowing smile back at me.
After a bit, I glanced back at Kenny and Sam to see them opening envelopes and smiling at Valentine greetings—like the rest of us.
Smiles and knowing looks were plentiful in that classroom that day. Something bonded us together for Valentine’s Day that year as we quietly gave of ourselves in a gesture to make a couple of outsider classmates the center of attention—without drawing public attention to them.
It was a lesson learned, too, that has stayed with me since. To always look for the one left behind. The odd man out. The wallflower in the corner. Their heart is no less precious than my own—no less valuable their person and contribution to the classroom, neighborhood, community at large.
Jesus made it a point to acknowledge the marginal members of society. He honored the small and the weak, the widow and her mites, the leper and his sores. They weren’t the popular kids or the most gregarious personalities—yet He took peculiar interest in them.
Then, told us to do as He did.
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
Since that Valentine’s Day some 45 years ago, I can’t look at a vintage Valentine without remembering Kenny and Sam, and the coming together of our classmates to cover them—not allowing them to feel the slight, but to make it right—giving from our plenty to their lack. Not allowing an honest oversight to cause pain.
Junior high and adolescence was swiftly descending upon us all. The runaway societal changes of the 1970’s would not help us in our quest to be more Christ-like. Our grade school innocence was soon to fade. The teen years would bring monumental change for us—some good, some bad. I am blessed to have this memory to hold onto, though.
And, the life lesson that goes with it.
It’s appropriate for St. Valentine’s Day—a Christian holy day instituted in mid-February around the time of a pagan tradition of animal sacrifice and superstitious ritual to ensure fertility. In such a climate, in the year 270AD, a Christian church leader named, Valentine, was beheaded by the pagan Emperor Claudius II for the crime of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. His words declaring the love of God for sinful man sealed his fate—and gave Valentine’s Day its name.
Though heavily commercialized today and having, through the centuries, come to be synonymous with romantic love, Valentine’s Day can be more than hearts, flowers, chocolates, and cupids. For me, it will always be more synonymous with noticing the lowly, loving the marginal, and delighting in innocence . . . because of the gift of God’s love.
A Valentine delivered by the nail pierced hands and feet of Jesus Christ.
Sharing A Vintage Valentine Story this week with:
Beverly’s Pink Saturday at How Sweet the Sound
Jillian’s Let’s Talk Vintage at Bella Rosa Antiques
Tell His Story with Jennifer Dukes Lee
Lyli at Thought Provoking Thursdays at 3D Lessons 4Life
Hope in Every Season Homemaking Party
Laura on Faith Filled Friday at Missional Women
Fellowship Fridays at Christian Mommy Blogger
Charlotte at Spiritual Sundays
My Fresh Brewed Life with Barbie – Weekend Brew
Janis at Sunday Stillness