Recently I was sitting at a library table next to a very studious ten-year old girl, a friend of my neighbour’s daughter. She was ploughing through her homework assignments as quickly as possible so she could join her friend on the library computer and play ‘Minecraft’.
As we sat, there suddenly skidded to a halt between us a crumpled bit of 3×5 card—a secret note! I opened it and saw, written in a child’s hand: I LOVE YOU. As I examined the note, I heard some youthful giggling and the rumble of sneakered feet rushing away to another room. ‘I think this is meant for you,’ I said, and handed the note to my scholarly companion. She read it, wrinkled her nose and pushed the note back at me. ‘Boys are so annoying!’ she said.
Things haven’t changed much since I was a child. I never sent secret notes, but the excitement and horror of telling a girl how I felt was almost overpowering. The real excitement for me on S Valentine’s day was crafting a beautiful card box from a shoe box, tinsel paper, lace, and foil hearts. The next day my beautiful box would be ruined by the other little kids shoving cards through the slot in the top and ripping the paper; it was supposed to be the cards that mattered but tainted the afternoon with sadness.
We were issued a list of fellow students, and to each we dutifully gave a card saying, ‘Be My Valentine’, even to the kids we abhorred. I didn’t appreciate the irony then, as I do now, getting a Valentine card from the kid who gave me a bloody nose the week before. In theory, the more cards you received, the more popular you were. In practice, the more cards, the better list-followers the other kids were. We also had to give a card to the teacher. My second grade teacher, Miss P, had the manner of a camel and the soul of a demon. Sure, Miss P, by all means, be mine.
It was, of course, insincere and provided us with a poor example of genuine expression of warm feeling. Better the hurled secret note of the timid suitor that landed on our library table. In Love, there is always a risk. Although he scurried away, at least the boy said what he understood to be his feelings, which is more than many adults do. Certainly his first effort surpasses the mass-produced ‘Be My Valentine’ cards.
Last year, someone told me she hadn’t given me a card because she thought I didn’t like S Valentine’s Day. Not so. Valentine’s Day is terrific, and should be celebrated every day! I am fully in favour of any and every opportunity to express love and affection. I am against commercialism, I am against insincerity, I am against ‘going through the motions’, and most particularly, I am against lying about feelings.
It can be easy to say ‘I love you’ when you don’t mean it, and hard to say it when you do. I firmly believe in saying what you feel, meaning what you say, and behaving accordingly. I mean, let’s be honest. Please.
I suppose I haven’t changed much since I was a little boy. I’m still annoying, and I still feel excited and reticent about saying ‘I love you.’ I hope I wouldn’t crumple up a secret note and throw it, although it’s a lot more romantic than a mass-produced card that says ‘Be Mine, (insert name here).’ (Also to be considered is that although I’m far more mature than that little boy, his aim is much better.)
So, on S Valentine’s Day I hope someone you love takes you by the hand, looks you in the eye, says ‘I love you,’ and means it. I hope you do the same as well.
May your S Valentine’s Day be perfect!
(Now I’m going to crumple up this article, throw it at you and then run off. Be ready.)
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