Before Valentine’s Day, we’d spend one art class making our valentine boxes out of shoe boxes brought from home. We’d use crayons and construction paper and, for those of us lacking any creative talent, our imaginations. Boxes were covered in paper then decorated with red hearts and a few flowers. We’d make slits in the tops of the boxes so all the valentines we expected would fit inside. In those days, the valentines were small, made from light cardboard, and they had silly sayings on the front. The backs were empty so we could sign our names. They even came with envelopes we addressed with our classmates’ names. My mother would buy a few boxes of the valentines, and we’d sit at the kitchen table and write them out then put them in the box to carry them to school. They never went into the school bag. They were too precious. The boxes were carried by hand with great reverence.
During the day we had to keep the boxes under our desks. That was the worst as the day went so slowly, and we could see each others’ boxes just sitting there while we wasted our time on arithmetic and English and whatever else was forced into our heads. I doubt we learned anything. We were clock watching, just waiting and biding our time until the party.
All of us brought something for the party: sugar cookies in the shapes of hearts, cupcakes with red frosting or bags of conversation hearts which said Be Mine or True Love or I’m Yours. None of us ever believed the sentiments. We just ate the candy.
The party was always the last part of the day. Away went the books and on our desks came the boxes. We’d take out our valentines and students, called by rows, would walk around and put an envelope in someone’s box. Sitting at my desk, I’d hold my breath hoping I’d get a valentine or two or several.
Once everyone was finished, the party began in earnest. We’d get to chat and eat and open our valentines. I remember hoping for one from my latest crush and being thrilled when I got it. When school ended, we’d walk home talking the whole way about the party and showing off our valentines.
We carried our boxes home with even more reverence than we had carried them that morning. The valentines inside were special.