Thank you to Lorine McGinnis Schulze over at Olive Tree Genealogy, for her ongoing series about Sharing Memories. She says, "We all want to find information on our ancestors and are overjoyed to find an ancestor’s diary or journal. But what about our own memoirs? It's important as genealogists that we not forget about writing our own story. We may think writing about ourselves is boring or egotistical but stop and think how excited your descendants would be to find a journal or dairy that their great great grandmother (you) wrote."
Lorine has been posting a topic every Sunday since December 8, 2009, which gives me lots of food for thought and writing. In addition, there are no rules, you can jump in when you want, choose any topic that takes your fancy, write when and what you want to write -- no rules. My kind of series, since I dinna seem to do to well under hard and fast rules as you will notice in this little snippet of a memory of valentines past. This little story is mostly true, at least in the feelings and the memories of a little girl who dinna quite "fit in." I have taken the liberty of changing names as I felt appropriate.
Snip, snip, then a dab of that sticky white paste. Early in February, the teacher – first Miss Carden, 3rd grade teacher, and subsequently all the grade school teachers at the old Henley Elementary School. Packets of paper doilies were handed out. I always took several because I had learned in 2nd grade that I used or ruined a lot of project supplies, what with tears, errant scissor cuts, and worst of all, sticky white paste glopping, smearing or running all over everything and across my desk.
“Now class, get out your scissors.” I grimaced. My scissors sort of chewed paper. Maybe if I couldn't find them, the teacher would let me use hers – or better yet, I wouldn't have to make a valentine. No such luck. The scissors rested ungainly in the bottom of my desk, the blades slightly askew – that was after I used them to pry open Gilbert's lunch pail. I don't know why his mother put a lock on a lunch pail. I thought I was going to have to share my lunch with him. It would have been easier with my pocket knife, but momma wouldn't let me bring it to school. So scissors was all I had. You'd think a boy like Gilbert would have his own pocket knife – but then his momma put a crazy make-do lock on on his lunch bucket.
Gil nodded as he nibbled on a PBJ, “You're pretty handy for a girl.” Now that bit of praise was worth a valentine, for sure!
The teacher handed each student three pieces of construction paper, a red, pink and white sheet, for making paper hearts. “Teacher, I can't find my scissors, maybe I could go to the library, or to the office and call my momma.”
“Oh, let me help you find them. Right here, that's where they are – at the bottom of your desk, all covered with – with your homework. This is homework that should have been turned in last week,” she squawked. “And what did you do to these scissors, the blades don't even close!”
“Maybe I can make the valentine later when I get new scissors. I am sure momma will get a nice sharp pair for me.”
The teacher shook her head, and gave me The Look like you're not getting out of this. “Well, do the best you can, ” she said.
By the end of the fun project, I had a wad of ruined paper doilies and my desk was littered with long skinny hearts, short squat hears, some that were flat at one end or the other – and sometimes at both ends. But, I finally had a valentine made that I thought would pass the teacher's eye. In my scrawly cursive (penmanship class was almost as painful as the fun project), I carefully, inscribed,
Happy Valentine's Day to Momma and Daddy
I hoped we were done with Valentine's, but not to be. The teacher brought out a box, looked like a shoebox to me, even though it was all covered with crepe paper, doilies, ribbons, and beautiful heart cut-outs.
“Now I want you all to make a valentine for each of your classmates. Then put all of the valentines into this box. It's like a mail box for Valentine's Day. We don't want anyone to feel left out when we have our valentine's party.”
The room seemed atwitter with laughter and anticipation of the party. I groaned. Maybe momma would buy a pack of valentines to bring for the class party. It was hard enough to write the names and all that stuff on the cards – just took too long, when I could be out climbing trees or riding my horse or at this time of year, making a snow fort.
These images of childhood escape seemed quite reasonable, but I knew my momma would say, “Store bought valentines are too expensive.” Then I would have to spend hours and hours inside making valentines cards.
So during those cold snowy days of early February, I smeared glue over hand-cut doilies and bedecked them with misshapen hearts. I didn't have a pink crayon, so I had red, orange and white hearts --- at least I didn't have to color the white hear\ts. Momma made me scrub the kitchen table real good because it was covered in glue smudges – and sometimes bits of colored paper embedded in the glue.
Finally the Day came. I was really glad that we only had 17 in our class. Those poor kids in Mrs. Jones class. That's a big class, with at least 20 kids. The valentines were passed out. The kids were giggling over their stack of valentines as they munched heart-shaped cookies and sipped punch --- although there was considerable punch sloshed over desks and the floor. I too had a stack of cards – and even one from Gilbert that I thought he'd specially made for me and signed it, “your best friend, Gill.”. It looked a lot like the ones we made in class. His cut-out hearts really looked like Valentine hearts should look. And I proudly packed up my 17 Valentines, including the one from the teacher, to take home to show my momma and daddy. I might even give one to my little sister, she's too young to know it was a hand-me-down Valentine, besides I didn't like Oscar very much anyway.
Years later while spring cleaning with my adult daughters, we came upon a box with art work, writing and school projects.
“Mom, you should throw these old things out.” The girls had opened a big brown envelope on which I had written, still scrawly but now with a certain flair, VALENTINES . The envelope had every valentine that each of my three children had made over the years, plus all the valentines Doc had so carefully chosen for me.
I snatched the envelope. “These are MY treasures,” I said. Then I mused, I wonder if momma had an envelope of glue-smeared doilies, misshapen hearts with childish handwriting.
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© Joan G. Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications