A Childhood Valentine


by tissa

I loved Valentine's Day as a child. Every year during the second week of February, I would buy a box of mini-Valentine's Day cards from the local pharmacy. I would fill out the cards meticulously and distribute them to my classmates on Valentine's Day. There were thirty cards in every box, ten each of three different types. The picture on every card was the same – one year it was a plump red heart with a bow and arrow piercing through it, another year it was a diapered winged baby aiming a bow and arrow – but the three messages were very different. One of the cards stated a simple "Happy Valentine's Day", another was sentimental and mushy, and the third bore a friendly, middle-of-the-road greeting.

I took the task of who got which card very seriously. On February 13th, I sat at the dining room table with a list of my classmates and three piles of cards before me. The ones with the platonic message went to the boys in class whom I liked the least. "To: Eddie, From: Tissa," I wrote. Nothing more, nothing less. I disliked some of these boys and didn't want to give them cards at all, but the teacher said that we had to give cards either to everyone in the class or to no one. The mushy cards went to my closest friends in class, who were all girls; besides, I couldn't possibly give those cards to any boys. They started with "Dear So-and-so" and were signed "Love, Tissa". The middle-of-the-road cards went to whoever was left on my list – a mixture of cute boys I had crushes on and girls I didn't particularly care for. There were always a few of these cards left over, which I gave to my gym, art, and music teachers. "To: Mr. Dixon, Sincerely, Tissa." "Sincerely" sounded so grown up.

On Valentine's Day in fifth grade, I came in as I did every year, carrying my stack of carefully thought out cards. I distributed them to my classmates, and everyone handed me a card in return. "Happy Valentine's Day," a few students ventured shyly. All the cards I gave and received were exactly the same size – about one-third the size of a normal envelope. Some of my classmates glued little pink or red candy hearts bearing various Valentine's greetings onto the cards they handed out. "Be Mine." "Sweet Talk." "Kiss me." Judging from the overly friendly sayings on the hearts I was given versus whom the card was from, I noted that my classmates weren't well versed in who-gets-which-message etiquette. Either that or I had many more admirers than I thought.

After distributing my cards, I walked over to my desk and gazed at the empty seat diagonal from me. Where was David? I had left his card on his desk, but I was sad that he wasn't here. As my big crush, he had received a middle-of-the-road card, and I wanted him to be there to appreciate it.

The bell rang and we all took our seats. The teacher silently took attendance and we stood and saluted the flag as the principal's voice boomed the Pledge of Allegiance over the loudspeaker. Seated once again, I turned my attention to the pile of cards before me while the principal's voice droned through the announcements of the day. I was absorbed in those cards when I heard a familiar voice exuberantly say, "Happy Valentine's Day, Tissa." I looked up to see David smiling at me, holding out a normal-sized yellow envelope with a big yellow flower taped to it. The envelope had my name written on it in pretty, amateur calligraphy. Surprised, I took it from him, noticing that half the eyes in the room were fixated on me. The other half were fixated on Jessica, who had also received a normal-sized envelope but with a big white flower taped to it. Jessica seemed pleased by all the attention.

I looked away from the stares and gently took the flower off the envelope. I couldn't believe that David had given me a real card. A full-sized card. It must have cost almost as much as a box of thirty mini-cards. I opened the envelope nervously. The card had a picture of a grinning Garfield in sunglasses on it. "Happy Valentine's Day…. from your friend," David had written inside. "David is so gross," I thought to myself, "always calling me his friend." Boys and girls weren't friends in fifth grade.

Since I had a giant secret crush on David, I ignored him whenever he spoke to me. I got mad for show whenever he called me his friend, pretending not to like him though I was happy on the inside. I suspected that David had a crush on me too, but I also knew that he had a crush on Jessica. Jessica and I were good friends, and though she too always shunned him in front of the other kids, I knew that she liked him as well, even though she would never admit it to me.

David, Jessica, and I were the talk of the cafeteria during lunchtime that day. The teasing was relentless. "I can't believe he embarrassed us like that," Jessica said sitting across from me at the lunch table, holding a Capri Sun in one hand and fluffing her dirty blond hair with the other. "We have to get back at him." I didn't know what she had in mind, but I was always ready to go along with whatever Jessica said.

David and our classmate Robbie followed Jessica and me home most days after school, even though it was out of their way. They usually walked a hundred yards or so behind us, running up to us occasionally to pull our hair or make kissing noises at us. When the final bell rang that day, Jessica and I started our walk home, carrying our Valentine's cards in our backpacks and our flowers in our hands. Sure enough, David and Robbie followed us. Jessica still hadn't hatched a plan but was determined to make David pay for embarrassing us in front of the whole school.

The street I lived on had a small hill, and as Jessica and I climbed to the top, David and Robbie were a safe distance behind us. When we reached the top, Jessica stopped suddenly to stare at the metal object at her feet. "I know," she said. "Let's wait until David gets up here and sees us, then throw these flowers into this sewer."

"Um," I stammered, "isn't that a little mean?"

"So what? We hate David," Jessica said.

I hesitated, trying to come up with an alternate plan. "How about we put the flowers on the sewer instead?" I suggested. I wasn't sure why, but somehow this seemed less harsh to me.

Jessica paused to think it over. "Okay," she said, shrugging her shoulders.

We waited for David and Robbie to come over that hill. When we were sure that David had spotted us, we took our flowers and threw them onto the sewer. David froze in place, stared at us in disbelief, then turned around and ran back down the hill.

"Haha, we got him!" Jessica screamed, jumping up and down. I looked over and saw Robbie run after David.

Jessica and I turned around and continued to walk home. We reached my house a few minutes later. "You want to come over to my house?" she asked.

"No, thanks," I said and headed inside. I turned on the TV and watched cartoons.

I waited until dusk, when I was sure that all the kids had gone home and that no one would be outside playing on my street. I went outside and walked back to the sewer. Kneeling down, I looked at the two flowers lying on the metal grates, wilted but still pretty. I was relieved they were still there. I took Jessica's flower and jammed it down the grates of the sewer. I picked up my own flower, walked to the side of the road, and buried it in the dirt. I never told Jessica, David, or anyone else what I did. I walked home.


Tissa Hami is a stand-up comic. Visit her website at www.tissahami.com


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by tissa on

JJ, thanks for your comments!  Glad you enjoyed the story.  (And w00t, I finally got the illustrious editor to comment on one of my pieces!)   :o)

Nazy jan, thanks for your continued support and encouragement of my work.  Your kindness and warm spirit are a gift.

Nazy Kaviani

To be able to love...

by Nazy Kaviani on

What a sweet tale you told!

Something about kids at that age and how cruel they could be to each other...

And something about adults and how cruel they could be to each other without any good reason...

To be able to love,
To see those looks,
To feel those jolts of excitement
When someone you care about looks at you,
And to feel sad and moved enough,
To bury the token of that love,
Limp and sad as it was,

You are special, Tissa.
You have always been special.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Jahanshah Javid

So sweet

by Jahanshah Javid on

Loved your story.