While we will just skip over the actual number of years (or decades) since I was an elementary school student and not a staff member, I really wish I had fond memories of Valentine’s Days past. Alas. I do not.
Oh, I recall the time spent to bling out a semi-discarded shoe box into a delightful Valentine box that would house the myriad of cards from my classmates. I’ve always been an artsy type, so this was a true moment to shine.
And my Mom indulged my hankering for paper doilies and glitter and ribbon and twine as if I were constructing the Taj Mahal.
So, back in that unmentioned decade, we would traipse to school with our bling-y boxes in tow, showering everyone with glitter dust. We would set the boxes in the spot assigned by the teacher, with our name proudly visible.
And we would wait.
It felt like weeks or month, but I’m certain it was only a day or two. Students would bring their Valentines in and gather at the row of brightly colored boxes. One by one, they would hunch over the makeshift mail system and shove their favorite cartoon heroes or princesses into the hole that corresponded to the recipient’s name.
While one person made their deliveries, all the rest of us would stare from our desks, wondering what magical message they had hand-picked for us. We held our breath, wanting them to pause to make a delivery at our box and forgetting the teacher’s mandate that “Since you have a list with all your classmates’ names, you will need to have a card for everyone.”
Nothing would be worse than opening an empty box.
At the Valentine party, we sat with our box on our desk until we couldn’t stand it. Finally the teacher gave the signal. We opened the treasure!
And we counted. No, there wasn’t a prize for the student with the most, but anyone with a competitive nature wanted the title: Most Valentines.
In those days, we averaged from 18-22 students per classroom. Valentines came 32-36 to a box. So you had a few extra. Maybe you gave 2 to your best friend. Maybe you gave 1 to a friend in another home room class. Maybe – if you were brave – you gave one to the boy you secretly liked, even though you would NEVER sign your name to that one.
Your Valentines box also included a convenient teacher card.
And a skunk card with a sentiment along the lines of, “Being your Valentine really stinks.” (What marketing genius thought that up? Let’s make it easier to trash your friends…) Even if the text wasn’t that overtly negative, we all knew what it meant to find a skunk card among your brightly colored love bundles: “YOU STINK.”
I confess. I utilized the skunk card myself. I would pull it out and decide which boy most deserved it for some imagined slight. I did it. And I thought nothing of it. Until…THAT year.
I was particularly pleased with my white covered box and the deep red foil doily heart with a fist-sized opening in it. My name was in red-glittered cursive. And I was about to learn a valuable lesson: children can be cruel.
The teacher gave the signal, and we pulled our boxes open. The simple joy of finding cards inside would not last this time. There was even an unusually large number of cards.
Could I have gotten some anonymous love notes? Did someone out there want ME to be his Valentine?
The first card I opened…had a skunk. It wasn’t signed. I blinked hard and opened another.
Skunk. Again. I pulled my box closer and cowered over it, hoping no one else could see. I tucked the two skunks under the pile of unopened cards. And I reached for number three.
Skunk! Three skunks? In a row? I tried to shake it off.
Then I opened skunk #4. And #5. Six. Seven.
I don’t know how many I opened before I just quit. I wadded up all my cards and stuffed them back into my box.
I had no response for my “friend” who asked if I had a problem. And I had no good answer for my Mom when she asked in future years how I wanted to decorate my box. The honest answer would have been to skip Valentine’s Day forever.
You see, that simple prank killed part of my childhood joy. Wouldn’t you call that cruel?
I find it interesting that I cannot recall my “friend’s” reasoning for perpetrating this trick, despite the fact that she eventually told me. I had made her mad over something that escapes me now. But I can still taste the adrenaline in the back of my throat and feel my heart pounding as it begged me to run from the room. THAT is etched forever into my memory.
Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Christ forgave me and forgot EVERYTHING. And I can’t get over a stupid box of paper skunks. WHAM! That’s a 2×4 between the eyes. Ah, yes. Another lesson for my DECREASE word of the year. And another reminder of God’s incredible GRACE.
Action Plan: Have you been nurturing bitterness over some ancient offense? Time to get rid of it, folks. Pray it out, and confess it to someone. Comment below. Or at facebook.com/13prayers/
Thanks for spending some time with me today. I spent time in prayer for you.by