Valentine’s Vacuum

Tuesday February 14th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

Valentine’s Day. Third grade. Silver Spring School. Milwaukee. Shudder. I can still see it in my mind’s eye like it was yesterday. It was one of my first crushing disappointments of childhood, with many more to follow. It’s funny now, but back then it was devastating.

I don’t know how they do it now, but back in school we used to decorate paper bags and use them as receptacles for Valentines from the other kids in the class. They’d all be hung on the front wall in a row with all our names on them until Valentine’s Day, when we got to open them. We could look inside the bags, but not actually open them until the big day.

It was a popularity contest for sure, sort of a primitive version of Face Book. Some bags were brimming with Valentines, others had one or two. This was a painful way to find out what popularity was all about, and I could see I wasn’t going to be one of those full bags.

Every day we’d all walk into the classroom and go immediately to our bags to check the number of Valentines we’d gotten. For a while I was getting shut out completely, and that really stung. I wasn’t the only one with the big zero, but that did little to comfort my ego.

An empty bag is an empty bag. Then, I came to school one day and saw that there were FOUR Valentines in my bag! I felt like doing a cartwheel immediately and ripping all of them open to see who they came from. Would I get one from ‘her’? I should be so lucky.

‘She’ was the nine year old blondie bombshell herself, one Holly Lueck. She was THE vixen of Mrs. Lucht’s class, and the first girl I can remember that made my heart wiggle in my chest when she walked by. Of course she sat across the room and we never did get to know each other very well – but I would have eaten a bag of worms to sit next to her.

I had no idea what to do with these newfound feelings. I wanted to be with her, talk to her, fake a seizure to get her to pay attention to me – whatever it might take to get her to at least know I was sharing a planet with her. But every time I got near her my tongue would seize up in my mouth and all that would come out of it were grunts, stutters and/or drool.

I was overcome with fear, but I did save my best Valentine for Holly, and I waited until the very last day to stealthily jam it into her bag, which was heaping with envelopes. She needed to hire a secretary to keep track of the load of mail she got, or hang a bigger bag.

Finally, the big day came to open our Valentines. I didn’t do the worst, but I also wasn’t the King of Hearts either. And a big old ZILCH from Holly Lueck. Bummer. I poured my Valentines on my desk, and tried to look cool as I opened them to see if hers was in there.

When it wasn’t, I felt a sickly sucking sensation in my soul. What a downer. I could not contain my bitter agony. Holly’s desk looked like a post office. Mine looked like a funeral parlor. It was torture. Then around May, Mrs. Lucht called me to her desk and handed me an envelope. It was a Valentine that had been lost. From Holly. Too late. Damage done.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: