Monday, February 10, 2014

My First Valentine by Grace Burrowes

We all know what Friday is, don't we?

My first Valentine's Day recollection was probably from about age five. I had hiked the twenty miles home from kindergarten, through four feet of snow, uphill the entire way, with a headwind. The morning jaunt had also been uphill through four feet of snow with a headwind, and such were my powers of imagination that dragons in nun's habits were probably in hot pursuit the whole way.
When I got home and peeled out of my winter gear, I spied three red envelopes on the mantel. One of them had my name on it (I could read that much but little else). One was for my sister Maire, and the other for my sister Gail.

What could this be? The card said silly, mushy things, and was signed "Dad."
Dad? The grouchy guy who was not to be disturbed when reading the paper? The guy with the sand-papery cheeks, by whom I had to sit at dinner because I hated broccoli and spinach? That Dad?

Well, I'm fifty years older now, and I cannot imagine what prompted this gesture, from a man who was single-handled supporting nine people on a professor's salary. He was entitled to be grouchy occasionally, to have five minutes peace with the newspaper some nights.

In addition to the cards, we had red velvet cake for dessert, and even at that tender age, I took my dessert very seriously. Valentine's Day, huh? Pretty nice. And it came around every year...?

That was the first time I can recall feeling special for a role that depended on my gender. It changed my self-image, and gave me a hint that femininity equated intrinsically with respect and strength. I and my sisters and mom were special, and that was a novel concept.

Dad is forgetful these days--he asked me about my boyfriend the last time we spoke, when I haven't had a boyfriend for fifteen years. He doesn't leave the house much, and he's certainly not cruising the card aisles. So it's my turn to toss the roses. Dad's Valentine is in the mail, the flowers are ordered, and I'll call him to remind him that his love--for me, my sisters, my mom, my daughter--has made all the difference in the world to me, and still matters very much.  

What's your earliest recollection of Valentine's Day, or would you just as soon forget the whole business? To one commenter, I'll send a $50 Amazon gift card (and yes, Amazon sells chocolate).

54 comments:

  1. It is wonderful to have a dad who loves you, isn't it? Mine was my first hero and as far as I'm concerned, he's still the Man of Steel. Thanks for sharing yours.

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    1. My dad was not my first hero. He was a tired, grouchy, self-absorbed abstract thinker who ended up in the middle of a family circus, but he is honorable. He does not understand his family, but he loves them. Maybe that makes him more heroic? In any case, his charm grew on me as I matured. Isn't that always the way?

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  2. I remember way back in elementary school when we used to get these little cellophane baggies to stick to our desks and we'd get Valentines cards from everyone in the class. Thinking back, it was tramautic having to give one to the boys but now it's just cute :) Thanks for sharing such a great story about your dad, Grace!!

    thebigbluewall77 (at) gmail (dot) com

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    1. I think the nuns got a bigger kick out of us kids giving Valentine's to each other than we did. Decorating the shoe boxes was kinda fun, too.

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  3. I remember that we used to get little valentines from other kids in our class. I think it was kindergarten and we made little boxes and decorated them. How pressure free it was back then, everyone got one and nobody was left out. I remember being so excited to see those valentines and candy in my box

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    1. And the candy hearts: Be Mine; All Yours; I Love You. Interesting, how those same sentiments can take adults 100,000 words to convey in fiction.
      Interesting too, that most of us seem to have had our first Valentine's experience in school, not at home.

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  4. Early grade school for me. I would love to buy the cute little boxes of Valentine's cards to give to my classmates. And to see how many I would get. LOL.

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    1. And open them one by one, wondering who sent the ones that weren't signed... and wondering that the boy in the front row thought of our card...

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  5. I was in the seventh grade, and had my very first "real" boyfriend, Michael. On Valentine's Day, he bought me a box of chocolates. I have kept that box (the candy is long gone, of course) and inside are all his love notes. Decades later, we're on opposite ends of the country, but remain FB friends. I wonder if kids write love notes anymore. I bet everything is just texts. bonnieblue at wowway dot com

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    1. I think you're right, Bonnie. They text, they tweet, they IM, they don't EVEN FB anymore because the grups took over FB. Young love must have its torments.

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  6. I envy you your father, Grace. My first recollection of Valentines was first grade when Mama helped me decorate a cereal box to take to school. And then she bought a box of cards for me to give everyone in my class room. I worried over which card to give each kid as if it were a life and death situation. But my favorite Valentine came from Germany from Mr. B in the form of one of those huge cards with a puffy satin heart on the front and a box of Whitman's Samplers. I still have both the empty box and the card. Yep, I can be sentimental.

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    1. If for many years, you only have the one Valentine, dear old Dad is a fine place to start. And yet, when I went card shopping, I saw NOT ONE card for a daughter to give her dad. Not a place for them, not a funny on, nothing. Grandparents to grandkids, to an aunt, to a son, but nothing for dad. That's WRONG.

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  7. Ahhh, Grace, I love it! We always had to give cards to all the kids in our class even if some were the meanest monsters alive, so they wouldn't feel left out. But I had a boyfriend in a couple of young grades who gave me chocolates with my card. I was sooooo shy, I'm not sure how I ended up with a boyfriend back then. LOL

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    1. It's the shy ones you have to watch... might have to write a book about that.

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  8. I love that story, Grace! My first recollection is bringing valentines to my Kindergarten class and not being sure if I put one in everyone's cubby. I had to go back and check and re-check, and the teacher was like, "Shane! Hurry up!" Leave it to me to make Valentine's Day stressful.

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    1. But now Princess Galen will have her Valentine's Day, and you'll know better than to stress. I recall maybe... second grade, the teacher had it all worked out, row by row, but everybody could see which cards came from which person... STRESSFUL, yes!

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  9. The first significant Valentine's for me took place when I was five years old. I had an after school Brownies meeting at which a "beauty specialist" was speaking. Why she was speaking to kindergarteners I really don't know but I guess that's the world we live in. All I remember about her talk is her commentary on the importance of how we refer to our anatomy. We were always to call our necks our throats. Because young ladies only have throats; chickens have necks. Yeah...

    Anyway, when I got home after that enlightening meeting, my parents presented me with my gift: a pony. Now, this wasn't like what you might expect. I wasn't a spoiled child who had been begging for a pony without any understanding of what one required. I come from a ranching family and getting my first pony so that I could ride and care for one on my own was a major landmark in my life. Her name was Stacy, she was all white, and she was my best friend for many years. I learned to be responsible for another living being with Stacy (feeding, brushing, mucking, etc.). I learned about picking myself back up with Stacy (being knocked off a pony is no joke). And I learned about heartbreak with Stacy when she died many years later. She will always be the best Valentine a girl could ever receive.

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    1. My daughter got her first horse as she approached her eighth birthday, a 25-year-old Crabbet Arabian who still had PLENTY of show days left in him. AM Appomattox was the best horse in the universe (also a gray), and full of beans until his died at the age of 31. Somebody was looking out for me the day he came off the trailer, because you said it--nothing teaches boundaries, responsibility, or healthy relationships like a good horse.

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  10. Love this story Grace!
    My favorite Valentine's day took place when I was nine years old. My brother was born and my Mom came home with him on Valentine's Day. I remember the red roses and candy and a crying baby! I remember asking if I could hold him and my Dad said yes and put him in my arms. My brother stopped crying and everyone laughed. That was a start of our relationship, one that has stood the test of time. I am lucky to have a wonderful brother. Today is his birthday-- going to call him ! :)

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    1. Wonderful story! My earliest memory was of Dad taking me and my sister Maire to pick up Mom and baby Joe at the hospital. I got to drink a WHOLE bottle of Coke (and I wasn't yet three years old, which probably resulted in a WHOLE lotta shakin' goin' on).

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  11. What's lovely story about your dad! My first memory is of first grade. We taped paper lunch bags to the edge of our desk, and dropped valentines for each other into the bags. My best friend got the valentine that I liked best in her bag, and vice versa. Boys got the valentines that I liked the least out of my pack of cards!

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    1. You have to wonder why small children do through that ritual, when clearly, boys aren't interested in girls and girls are not interested in the boys.

      But candy has universal appeal. Hmm.

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  12. My earliest memory is from around age four. I'm an only child and a girl to boot so my Mom always took pictures of everything I got for holidays, b-day, etc so I remember sitting on the coffee table with my Valentine's Day cards displayed beside me with a stuffed animal I had also gotten and me in a pretty sweater dress. My eyes might have rolled by the time I was older, but now the photos are precious.

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    1. And those sweater dresses... I had one, wool, with rainbow colored buttons. Itchiest item of apparel it has ever been my torment to own.

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  13. I've always liked Valentine's Day, even if I didn't have a significant other. I would bake heart-shaped cookies and send cards to friends. Now I am a minimalist and vegan so don't eat cookies or send cards but I still try to touch base with my loved ones, not just on V Day, but every day. Oh, and my husband and I just prefer to do something fun on that day. This year we'll have lunch and see Swan Lake at the ballet! :)

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    1. Duck Pond! When the Black Swan does his thing, think of me. LOVE that variation.

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  14. What a sweet post. And thanks for the reminders--I need to get those family Valentine cards in the mail today!

    My first memories of Valentine's Day are those elementary school celebrations--addressing cards to classmates and decorating a shoebox to hold the cards I'd receive. I look at my grandkids today and they are doing the same thing!

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    1. This discussion has me recalling the scent and taste of that school paste. Yes, taste...

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  15. My earliest recollection of Valentine's Day was my introduction to it in Kindergarten. We were guided on making Valentine's Day cards for our parents. I had never heard of such a day until then. My parents were immigrants. However, the concept of that day caught my attention.

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    1. The Day might be American, but the Saint is certainly international. I think mostly, Hallmark decided we needed a reason to buy cards and eat sweets because Spring is STILL NOT HERE.

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  16. First grade, exchanging cards with classmates. :)

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    1. Under the watchful eyes of the nuns? We had to give Sister a card too, and that was just weird... The nuns did not have an easy time of it.

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  17. My earliest memory is that my dad always brought home Valentine's Day candy or a gift for my mom, my sister & me.

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    1. Go, Dad! And yes, when I went card hunting, I didn't see a single card intended for a daughter to give to her dad. Scandalous!

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  18. Hi Grace, my first memory of Valentine's Day is passing out those little cards at school in 1st grade.

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    1. I wonder if first grade teachers have lesson plans for this stuff, or maybe the elementary school art teachers do? What do you do for the kid who forgets to bring in a shoe box...?

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  19. getting cards from school

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

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  20. I always loved making the boxes - anything having to do with arts or crafts. We too had to give a card to everyone and I spent forever deciding who got what. Eventually kids only sent them to who they wanted to which can be hurtful but knowing when they had to give one to you wasn't much better lol. I got my first little box of candy and card from the neighbor boy which was sweet but I always thought of him as a brother. My dad never gave cards or flowers. Eventually I got them from my husband to be and some years he pays attention and other times nothing so he's a sort of hit or miss kind of guy lol. I loved it though when some years he did give our two daughters cards, candy and/or flowers.

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    1. A dad's role in his daughter's development of self-esteem cannot be underestimated. The hand that rocks the cradle might rule the world, but the dad who takes time for his daughter can rule the universe.

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  21. Thank you, Grace. I have a hard time remembering Valentine's Day that far back. For one thing, I spent several of my formative years in countries where they don't celebrate it.

    But when I was eight and living in Washington State, I remember cutting pink and red construction paper to make valentines, them decorating them with glitter and paper lace. It was an arts and crafts project for my Brownie Scout troop. Or was it my third-grade class? Whatever.

    Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

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    1. And the glitter was sooooo messy. I hated cleaning up all the little paper scraps, the glitter, the glue. And for what? My finished products never had much to recommend them.

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  22. The earliest recollection of Valentine's Day was sometime in elementary school. I just remember making paper hearts from construction paper for our parents and the teachers handing out Sweethearts candy. Happy Valentine's Day.

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    1. Did you fold the red paper in half, and have to wait for the teacher to come around and draw a half-heart profile so you could cut it out? I forget what year that was, but geesh, lady. I can cut out a heart already...

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    2. Yes, I do remember folding the paper in half and drawing the half heart profile. I also remember the big stack of pink and red construction they had on hand for us to use.

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  23. I remember my mom giving me a stuffed animal and receiving little boxes of candied cards from my little friends :-) Valentine's Day is so sweet when you are little! Hand-made cards handed to you by shy hands...

    justforswag(AT)yahoo(DOT)com

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    1. Just plain sweet... Dad is 93, and every Valentine's Day is likely to be his last. One must fuss while the light lasts.

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  24. My best Valentine's memories come from my family than any other person. My parents would always give my sister and I little stuffies and chocolates and leave them by our beds when we got home from school. I still have a collection of heart pillows and stuffies that say "I Love You" from my parents and those mean a lot! Other than that, Valentines is just another day although I do enjoy the extra chocolates that float around after it :P

    ahui89 at hotmail dot com

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    1. I like that we focus for a day on tenderheartedness and romance. I don't like that for many people--widows and widowers, spouses of those deployed overseas, the unlucky in love--it can be a hard day.

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  25. My earliest (I was four) Valentine’s Day memory is going with my great-grandfather to our local WWII memorial to lay a bouquet of red, white, and blue flowers at the footer. At the time, I never understood what this had to do with Valentine’s Day although I later learned that on February 14, 1943 my grandfather’s infantry division was captured and held as POWs for 28 months. By laying flowers at the foot of our local WWII memorial, he was paying his respect to those who never returned. Although my grandfather passed away several years ago, I still carry on the tradition.

    -Angela
    ars45123@yahoo.com

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  26. What a beautiful memory! I remember school valentines. The old beautiful printed ones and the handmade ones. My hubby makes a point of paying special attention to our 3 daughters every Valentine's day - what a precious gift to them.
    lattebooks at hotmail dot com

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  27. I think my earliest recollection of Valentine's Day was in elementary school when we were given a list of the names of everyone in the class and were instructed to bring cards to pass out to everyone. I thought it was a fun project, and I remember being careful not to give the mushy looking ones to boys. :D

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  28. Sadly, my dad wasn't big on all of that but I do remember enjoying reading all of the candy hearts at school (yes, I have always liked to read, lol). My best Valentine's memory is the second date I ever had with the guy who became my husband...it was the first time I had received candy and flowers from a guy...and we still chuckle about the fact that I hid the candy before I left for my date...which was a good thing because my dad looked for it and if there's one thing I don't like to share...it's my See's candies, lol.

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  29. In third grade, while passing out our Valentines, a male classmate did not give me his until the end of the day. It told me that he loved me and hoped one day we would marry. I had no idea how to react, and was dreading going to school the next day. I pretended like everything was normal - we remained friends until he died in his 40s of cancer. I saved the Valentine for years, but have no idea what happened to it.

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