the trouble with valentines
hmm, well, it seems we’re in a pickle, here on the brink of the 24-hour timeout for ooey, gooey, goopy love.
i’ll reel out the dilemma:
the house–thanks to a bodyclock that manages to run on little sleep when a big hour is at hand–is all laid with the trappings of that national feast day of construction paper and glue. oh, and i do mean trappings. nearly slipped down the stairs, i just almost did, when my heel caught and slid on a red paper heart. or was it a pink one? hard to tell in the dark. i’ve got hearts scattered like puddles after a downpour in april.
up to that point in this cupid-pocked tale, there are no protests. not a one from the one particular inhabitant of said house who went to sleep with a fear in his head, and a rumble down in his belly.
nor will there be picketing when it comes to the old maple table, the one now bursting with hearts in pink and in red. the one with hearts that are shimmering. hearts that you’d better not shake for they’re losing their glittery scales like a snake on some sort of diet.
no shouts of protest when breakfast is served in red-plastic heart plates. nor when young hungry folk see that the star of the table is the fat giant cookie their papa brought home from the store, in the cover of darkness, i think, when no one was looking. although i must pause and wonder what the cashier must’ve thought, when she saw a tall man with glasses and puffy old snow coat trying to pay for a chocolate chip cookie the size of a championship frisbee, iced with the words, “kiss me hot stuff.”
hmm. no wonder we’ve got just a bit of a valentine’s problem.
the problem is this:
the little one, the one who loves everything about the day when he wakes up to the paper-heart trail, the one that leads from the edge of his bed, out his room, down the stairs, round the bend, into the kitchen, and straight up to the table where sugar comes in a few extra forms, well, that very little one is adamantly lobbying that he–along with the rest of the first-grade boys–should be excused from school this very fine thursday.
now, why, you ask? why would a boy want to skip out on a day where cupcakes are served, and brown paper bags are hung at the edge of each desk. why would a boy want to miss out on the foil-wrapped chocolates that might get dropped in that bag, along with, say, a valentine?
ahhh, the v-word. that there is the problem.
i’ll let the little one explain, as he did last night at dinner, while popping clementine moons into his mouth, delivering the occasional swift kick under the table to his big brother who could not wipe the giggle off of his lips:
“all the boys don’t want to go to school,” he began, “because they think we’ll get cooties.”
what are cooties, the little one’s mama asked, coolly, without so much as a flinch. (poor child is tied with a long-historied inquisitor for a mama. when it comes to questions, he gets ’em rat-a-tat, till there’s not a thing left to wonder. fear not, the child can take it.)
cooties, he explained, are: “things on your face.”
popping a clementine, he refined his definition: “just like dimples.”
[note to reader: we think he meant pimple, but when you are six, consonants slip-slide all over the place, wind up where they don’t belong all the time. we pay no mind to trespassing consonants. we take them in stride.]
how do you get them, we asked of the dimple/pimple/cooties?
“you know,” came the two-syllable answer, rounded out with a roll of the eyes.
“girls,” came the addendum. delivered with a swift and certain kick to the shin of the big brother, who by then was near bursting with giggles he knew to contain. apparently, he didn’t contain them nearly enough, for the little one, suddenly, out of the blue, teetered on tears.
“only if a girl kisses you,” he explained, unprompted.
and, apparently, the mere thought of a classroom of puckered-up girls pushed him over the edge. there were tears everywhere suddenly.
tears mixed with clementines. tears mixed with what appeared to be punches into the arm of his nearly-choking, trying-so-hard-not-to-laugh big brother’s baggy sweatshirt. and finally, tears buried in the chest of his mother. who, for the record, is not a girl, and was allowed to very much kiss him to try to make the tears go away.
so here we are, right here on the brink of the moment itself. any minute now, that sweet dreamer will awake, will be swept by the hearts at the edge of his bed, down the stairs, and into the insanely overdone table. he will romp with the reckless joy of cookies for breakfast, along with his pink scrambled eggs, and his strawberry floating in orange juice.
but then, the moment will come. he will freeze. mid-bite, probably. he will writhe. he will try, one more time to wriggle his way out of going to school on the day when the cooties could come.
ah, but his mama, being a meanie, she will knowingly, glowingly, send him anyway.
a boy’s got to learn, now doesn’t he, that a little love surely won’t hurt him.
and if he gets a cootie or two, well, he’ll learn about clearasil, too.
big day for six-year-old boys, this day packed with cut-paper hearts and rampant, out-of-control possibility.
to be loved, is the point, is to be at risk for all sorts of troubles. you might be drawn to places you’d not dreamed of. you might tap into bits of your soul you’d never explored. you might find yourself falling for someone who urges you to become more than you ever knew you could.
not a bad lesson for first-grade.
not a bad lesson, at all.
and my wish for each and every one of you: that you too get into the trouble of being loved. and may this day of hearts and random, lurking cooties bring you unexpected giggles. and even a chocolate or two. or maybe just the biggest fattest juiciest strawberry you ever bit into.
did you ever worry about cooties? do you have a heart’s-day tale to tell? do you, like my friend emb, live to scatter hearts today the way i so often scatter bird seed?
I am so glad sweet six year-olds are immune to any germs in mommy kisses! As independent as I’ve been in my adult life, I need to stop right now and confess, that I looked forward to the arrival of the JC Penney and Sears catalogs each season, because I would pick out my wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses! If any of the boys in my first grade class knew that my afterschool past-time was to peer through these catalogs, they most certainly would have run to their mothers in fear!I think of the phrase, “where angels dare to tread,” I cannot but help to think about your sweet boys traipsing over the carpet of hearts on the floors of your house. How beautiful that again and again, they know they can safely bare their soul do their dear mama and pap
My little fellow (3rd grade) survived another Valentine’s Day….. Even the slimmest of grocery-store paper valentines give him the heebie jeebies. Somehow, though–and this may also be true for your little guy–the ubiquity of candy on this holiday makes up for the risk of cooties (or as my boy puts it, “lo-o-ove. YUCK!”). Happy Valentine’s Day!
The saddest thing for me on Valentine’s Day is not not to be loved romantically, but to feel funny about wrong love. Many asked me yesterday, with grave voices, how my day was as a fairly new separatee. It was a lovely Valentine’s Day, with my two girls as my hearts, and all kinds of love I feel for friends and family and the love I feel back. Not to mention my new haircut as of yesterday and foundation in the right color. What a pick me up! So much better than feeling the secret dread of a marriage that was no longer viable. Apologies if this is too candid.
Not too candid for me. I’m glad you had a good Valentine’s Day! You’re right, there’s so much love all around us.
Valentine’s come unexpectedly. I received a Valentine via an act of kindness on my plane from Philadelphia to Chicago last night. I made an error in my travel arrangements which resulted in a Southwest Airline B34 boarding pass (I am always A status and close to first in line). When I arrived at the airport, my group of fellow weekly fliers were aghast at my being relegated into B status for this flight. However, I went to the back of the line. When I entered the plane, I saw that Don was sitting in my regular aisle seat – holding it secure for me. Small gesture with big impact for my Valentine’s Day. Kindness unexpected but deeply appreciated.
I like your story, MB. Unexpected gesture and unexpected friendships formed by the constancy and regularity of your flights all together.
jcv: I love the cost-benefit ratio of the cooties v. candy. Very important problem-solving skill.
I’ve never had a “romantic” Valentine’s Day, as I am still waiting for someone to make it that way (and I’m happy to wait). But I was reminded of all the other kinds of love I am blessed with. Family love, and friend love… The best part was getting a sweet card from a little boy who comes into my Tae Kwon Do classroom every week to learn. (I work part-time as an instructor at my Tae Kwon Do school.) It made me stop and realize what good thing it is to be a teacher of any kind, and that day after day when I think I’m just working to put that gas in the tank, I am also giving something to my students. I give away little bits of my heart, and get them back doubled in size.That was a very good Valentine’s Day lesson.
Every year at the middle school my children go to, they have a valentine fundraiser – kids buy lollipop hearts for 50 cents each and send them to classmates. When my son was in 6th grade, he sent HIMSELF 6 lollipop hearts. Self love is a good thing, I suppose. But it was probably also about wanting to guarantee that he would receive some lollipop love (and some candy to eat!). This year my 6th grade daughter only had enough money in her pockets to buy 2 lollipops. She bought one for herself! and one for her old buddy Vincent who has been her pal since kindergarten — but in 5th grade they avoided each other like the plague because they were teased by the other kids about their friendship. Now in 6th grade, she informs me that she has a crush on Vincent.
This year, Valentine’s Day was a bit different at our house …Our oldest daughter wanted to prepare dinner for her sweetie of about three years and asked if we wouldn’t mind making other plans so she could have dinner for just the two of them here at home. We obliged and she cooked a gorgeous meal complete with decadent dessert and set a beautiful table with candles and flowers for the two of them.My husband and I, in turn, took our youngest daughter to the very loud local family pizza place and played the carnival games with her … not immensely romantic, but fun nonetheless.In case any one is wondering … the dinner was a success and when we came home, he was helping with the dishes! Definitely son-in-law material.
soooooooooo soooooooooo sweet! i love the gathering of valentines that crowded the mailbox while i was away (not away away, just unplugged from the computer, a good way to be, i might add, for extended spells some times). i love each of the stories up above…..tae kwon do valentines. lollipop love valentines. doing dishes valentines. the day turned out to be a mighty sad one not far from chicago, at a place friends of mine, dear friends, have gone to college. it was a day to be glued to the news, and to try to muster the courage to let your children out into this world, a world where it seems to be getting far far too easy to take out your angst and your personal injustices with a damn shotgun aimed in the face of unsuspecting innocent people. i spent the days after wracking my brain trying to figure out what in the world we, as a society, can do to right this terrible turn of mores. in one week, i counted four horrible butcherings of innocent lives…… a women’s clothing store, a city hall meeting, a psychiatrist’s office, and a college lecture hall…….to say nothing of the explosive world of iraq and the middle east…..it leaves me limp. and feeling sooo utterly blessed to be wrapped in the thick blanket of love that covered my house this just past day of all hearts…..