Janet Sheridan: Valentines of note
I received a valentine in fifth grade that thrilled me from the top of my haphazard hair to the tips of my scuffed shoes. It featured a happy elephant driving a blue jalopy and the caption, “You auto be my valentine.” Nothing special, until I turned it over and saw Ted’s signature. A friendly sixth-grader new to Lake Shore, Ted had an easy smile, the mystique of the unknown, and universal female attention. I couldn’t believe he’d found my fifth-grade class and dropped a card in my valentine box. Surely he loved me.
I basked in Ted’s affection until I boarded the bus after school and learned he’d given a valentine to every girl aboard, including my sister Barbara, a gap-toothed first-grader. All of us had thought we were the one — except for Barbara, who’d thrown his card away because it didn’t have candy taped on the back.
A quirky seventh-grade neighbor gave me another valentine I’ve long remembered. When we entered junior high together, Edgar ignored the storm of peer pressure swirling through its hallways and remained his eccentric, unabashed self, so he didn’t hesitate to run toward me across the crowded lunchroom, bellowing, “Hey, Janet, I have a valentine especially for you!” The card’s cover had a male crooner holding a microphone with music notes dancing around his head and the words, “When the moon hits your eye like a bigga pizza pie, that’s amore.”
Inside, a snake-like creature with a shy smile twined around the words, “And when an eel bites your hand and it’s not what you planned, that too’s a moray!” Beneath his signature, Edgar had added a note, “I’m not interested in being your valentine, but I knew you’d laugh at the card.” I was amused, flattered, and relieved.
A piece of ripped-out notebook paper was handed to me in my high school biology class while Mr. Fullmer, teacher and coach, busily diagramed football plays at his desk. The paper had a pencil sketch of a donkey with a big grin showing lots of teeth and the message, “To Janet Brayn. If I were taller and smarter, could I be your valentine?”
The card’s creator obviously didn’t know he could be my valentine without either prerequisite. Happily, for both of us, Monte experienced a growth spurt over the summer, bought a car he considered compensation for his grades, and became my first I-think-I’m-in-love boyfriend.
Sue, a dear friend of mine, told me one of my favorite valentine stories. A few years ago, she bought a valentine, weeks in advance, for her husband, Tom. As Feb. 14 approached, she reread the card, studied the zebra with huge red lips on the front, and found its message, “I’d like to lay a smacker on you, Valentine,” moronic. Wondering what she’d been thinking, she threw the card in a desk drawer where she kept greeting cards for various occasions and bought another valentine for Tom.
Later, Tom rummaged through the drawer, found the discarded card, signed it, and gave it to Sue on Valentine’s Day. Then, when she saw it and couldn’t stop laughing, he told her with some indignation, “Really, Sue, it wasn’t that funny.”
A few years ago, my husband noticed the valentine display at Walmart, found a card he thought I would appreciate, and felt good about himself for remembering. He then wandered off to the paint section, where he became preoccupied with which masking tape to buy, forgot to purchase the card, and decided to just tell me about it when he got home.
The droll way he told the story and the laugh we shared made it the best valentine he could have given me.
Janet Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at auntbeulah.com the first and 15th of every month.