by CAROL McEWEN, for the Sun Gazette
Yep, this one’s about Valentine’s Day, my second favorite holiday. I love it because it’s a bright spot of color and fun in a dreary season. And let’s face it: the candy doesn’t hurt either.
I smile, remembering school Valentine parties from my 1950s childhood. Like any good party, they required advance work.
First, each of us decorated a brown paper grocery bag, with our name printed carefully at the top by the teacher. The visiting art teacher gave us doilies and red, pink or white construction paper, while we produced those snub-nosed scissors, setting to work on our creations.
Since I was not “artistically inclined,” as my tactful teacher put it, my bag was usually a mess.
My downfall was always the Le Page’s glue rubber top. I dabbed on WAY too much glue and ended up with everything stuck together, like a Picasso painting without the value.
Remember the valentine cards we bought at the drug store? They had cheesy messages like “Bee my Valentine” with a honeybee at the top and at the bottom: “You’re a honey of a friend.” I thought them beyond clever.
After our bags were complete, the teacher would thumbtack each one to the wooden chalk tray at the bottom of the blackboard, for easy delivery. And speaking of delivery, we were told to give a valentine to EVERY kid, even the one who tripped you on the playground or made fun of your name.
On Party Day, we delivered our valentines, choosing favorites for our friends and the ugliest one in the bunch for that kid you couldn’t stand. I’d even slip a few of those hard candy hearts – which said things like “Kiss Me” or “XO” – into the envelopes of my favorites.
At the end of the day, the Room Mothers appeared with sweet treats, sometimes cupcakes with pink frosting sprinkled with contrasting sugar, or cookies iced in pretty colors.
The treats were always homemade, never bought or wrapped, since we trusted our parents not to poison us (although I understand that mine considered it a few times).
We’d open our mail as we ate, happy we had so many friends. One year I got a mushy valentine with “Guess Who?” written at the bottom. I was in heaven, even before the sugar rush hit.
Those Old School parties gave us excitement and a sense of belonging on cold winter days so long ago.
Reach Carol McEwen at firstname.lastname@example.org.