I had decorated my shoe box with pink hearts and tons of glitter, making the slit extra wide at the top to accommodate any special goodies that might be bestowed upon me by my peers. It was a true work of art to my little mind and I was overcome with excitement.
What bounty lay in store?!?!?
I lifted the box when I got to my desk and shook it a bit. It felt heavy. My heart soared!
I had listened to the kids around me that morning comparing the contents of the baskets from their parents, left in the night on various kitchen tables. There had been nothing left for me. No one asked me what I had been given. If they had, I would have been too embarrassed to admit the truth. My family, somehow, was different.
When the time came I dug into my box like everyone else. Squeals of delight from around the room. My first order of business was to count the candy. Then the cards. I looked to my left and to my right. Everyone else had received twice as many cards as I had. No matter. There was still plenty of candy here for me.
I picked up the largest card in my stack, an anonymous one addressed to me with a nice big heart shaped sucker attached to it. I tore open the lollipop and popped it into my mouth, savoring the sugary goodness, then ripped open the envelope. Inside the card, in second grader scrawl, it said, “You are a prude and I hate you.” I had to look up the meaning of “prude” in one of the heavy, blue classroom dictionaries. “Someone who is too concerned with being proper or modest. Synonyms: Puritan, prig, goody-goody.” I fought back the tears, looking around to see if anyone was watching. No one. I slipped back to my desk and shoved it back into the box, closing the lid.
How would any of you know who or what I really am when you won’t even speak to me?
The sucker suddenly tasted awful and swallowing around the lump in my throat was painful but I did not want whomever sent it to see me spit it out and throw it away.
“When people tease you like that it means they like you,” my mother always said. We both knew it was a lie but it made her feel better to say it.
That episode tainted my perception of Valentine’s Day for many years to come. Every year it was the same.
In junior high and high school I would have sold my soul and myself for the price of a carnation. More than anything, I wanted to be marked as one of the popular, accepted ones. If only those boys had known. Instead, each year I was reminded on February 14th how insignificant and unloved I really was.
So now, I am an adult. I am over it. Really.
Or so I thought.
My own kids are doing Valentine’s parties at school this year and I find myself thinking about it all over again. I am so, so glad that I had those experiences as a child now that I am grown but it was hell to live through back then. I want my kids to have the compassion that all of that taught me, but without the pain, without the scars.
TODAY, this time, I have a giant bouquet of flowers sitting on my desk. My flowers. Because I am loved. I am Victo Dolore…. pain conquered.