Valentine Power

Valentine Power

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms

Valentine Power

Do all things with love.

Og Mandino

All through the second grade, I looked forward to grade three. Miss Braun would be my new teacher, and I would finally have a classroom on the main floor of the school, instead of the daylight basement that housed grades one and two. What a huge step up that would be. Best of all, I would be near my best friend, Kate.

Kate, although only three months my elder, was a grade ahead. I missed our daily companionship terribly when she was promoted from the basement to the third grade, but we walked to school together every day and lingered in the hall together until class time. Every recess she would come to my room, or else I would go to hers, and we spent the time together doing best friend things. Early in the term, however, I began to avoid her room because of a bully named David.

David was big for his age and used his size to terrorize younger students—namely, me. His quick wit supplied him with endless caustic remarks and hurtful jibes, which I tried desperately, but without success, to ignore.

In those days, teachers spent their break time in the staff room, while the students played joyously in the classrooms, down the hallways, or, in nice weather, spilled onto the playground. The boys often played marbles in the aisles between the desks while girls played hopscotch on chalked grids on the oiled floor. Games of dodge ball, floor hockey, or pig-in-the-middle were played in the wide corridor. Only occasionally would a teacher, or, heaven forbid, the principal, emerge to oversee a few minutes of playtime. Fortunately, there was seldom any misbehavior, unless you count the carefully worded banter bullies used to scare the most timid. Even though I tried to keep an eye out for him, David caught me off guard regularly and delighted at my resulting pain.

In the evenings, while doing dishes together, I often discussed my joys and sorrows with my mother, and talk of my nemesis came up regularly. She usually knew just what to say, and I was reassured by her support and love. However, I doubted her assurance that he “would grow up one day.”

One evening, early in February, Mom surprised me with what she called a “surefire solution” to my David problem, and I sat in stunned silence, not believing my ears. “Give him a valentine,” she said. My mind raced. Give him a valentine? I’d rather die. Wait, I would die. Having lost considerable faith in my mother’s wisdom, I quickly pushed the idea aside.

Every year, the students in each classroom decorated a beautiful valentine box with a slot in the lid. The special box ceremoniously stood in a place of honor on the teacher’s desk, and for weeks we prepared our valentines and dropped them into the slot for the teacher to distribute during the traditional Valentine’s Day party. I always slaved over my valentines, choosing just the right Lyn Larsen one for my teacher and one for each of my classmates. My mother was insistent that if I gave to one, I gave to all. Of course, that only meant my own classmates. After that I could give to whomever I chose, and I deliberated long and hard that year.

On the morning of February fourteenth, I crossed the hall with trepidation, clutching two cards, one for Kate and one for David. As usual, he accosted me at the threshold, growling at me to get out, but Kate came to my rescue, and I was able to sidestep him. It was a long walk to the front of the room, and after making my deposit in their classroom’s valentine box, I turned to plan my escape. Much to my relief, David was absorbed in a marble match on the floor, and Kate still stood guard, just in case. Smiling my gratitude, I quickly retreated.

During the afternoon party I worried, knowing that I had erred. I should never have succumbed to my mother’s lapse of reason. But it was too late, and I just knew I would be the laughingstock of the entire school. I scarcely read the valentines that were delivered to me. Even the arrows through the heart-shaped cupcakes with fluffy pink frosting failed to pierce the heavy black cloud that enveloped me.

When the bell rang, I aimlessly followed the crowd into the hallway. As I rounded the corner of the mudroom, my eyes locked with David’s. I choked back tears and held my breath, awaiting the inevitable onslaught. He just gave me a strange look and, to my horror, fell into step beside me. I thought to myself, What a fix! What now? But fortunately, another boy challenged him to a footrace, and David was off.

As I look back, I have to admit, my mother and Saint Valentine were right.

Lyn Larsen

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