One of the best things about having your neighbor as your best friend was the Do-it-yourself shoebox mailboxes both of you had outside your houses. Of course, mailing had rules. First, when putting your mail in the “mailbox” thou shalt not be seen doing the act. Second, mail can only be sent in the morning and afternoon, not in the evening because 7 or 8 o’clock is sleeping time.
Until today, I have kept the deep appreciation for hand written letters. They remind me so much of childhood. My life was surrounded with words written on paper folded in a specific way earning the label: a letter.
That’s how I first encountered Valentine’s day in my early childhood. Valentine’s day was “Valentimes day” and that meant putting colorful hearts in your letters. There was the routinely message except the paper was a little special; the decorations were added a little extra and messages were a little longer than usual.
“Do Valentine’s mean hearts?” I asked the best friend. “Yeah. I guess so. There’s always hearts everywhere during the month.” I believed that for years and somehow convinced myself that V in Valentine’s was shaped like the end of a heart. Thus, becoming an exclusive term for “heart” every February It really was justifiable around that time of age.
Initially, life consisted of friendship letters, but in third grade I received a love letter at the end of the school year. This specific love letter had to be decoded. It was written in symbols that I had to take the time to decipher and understand. I thought it was gibberish but those two boys kept pushing each other to give me some piece of folded paper.
“I don’t get it.” I told my classmate (since she was with me at the time). We twisted the paper on all sides and couldn’t make the words out. Around this time, the class was big on symbols and secret messages so my classmate suggested that maybe it was a secret message.
“About what?” I asked. “I don’t know.” She said. “That’s your job.” She added. I shrugged my shoulder, giggled a little and went home.
I was first given roses in fourth grade by this boy who was probably planning to surprise me. Funny thing was, I passed through him in the hallway and saw him with a mini bouquet. He was convincing some other classmate of mine to give the mini bouquet to someone in class. A few minutes later I arrived in class, I was given 3 roses… a mini bouquet… from anonymous. What makes it funnier is that I was so intrigued about who anonymous was (forgetting I already saw him with the same bouquet in the hallway on the way to the classroom).
“Oh my gosh! Three roses mean I LOVE YOU!” and though I didn’t know the weight of those words then, I was so excited to know
Of course, I didn’t want to make it look like it was the first time I received roses, so I held them “casually.” In all honesty, my hands were sweating. My lungs were hardly contracting; I probably wasn’t breathing and blinking, or maybe I was breathing and blinking at the same time. At the end of the day, I found out anonymous was that guy in the hallway. I wasn’t sad; it was nice of him. I appreciated it, and I remember him even up to this day.
On the same day, I received a love letter from a boy in another section. Maybe it’s one of the reasons why I love poetry. He wrote:
I know we don’t know each other at all but just wanted to say I love you.
Please don’t cringe. It really was sweet at the time. Childish puppy love consisted of avoiding eye contact and preventing and hiding all signs of blushing.
The year after, is what I would label: my most materialistic Valentine’s day. I don’t want to think I went through the materialistic phase alone so I’m just going to assume everyone did at some point.
I changed personalities drastically and in fifth grade I was in a girl clique who considered themselves famous. Now that I think about it, that was self-labeled. Like any girl clique, we all hated each other so there was a silent competition going on within us.
On Valentine’s day, boys kept coming in the classroom with. One of my girls kept receiving roses in the morning. I on the other hand, received none. I still held myself high despite being insecure (since I received none). In the afternoon, I was already receiving cupcakes and cakes; That’s where the real silent competition started. The food kept coming, and I had roses too. My co-clique kept receiving stuff as well and if you could feel competition there was heat between us both. Like the girls we were, we still talked to each other.
“That’s so cute! You have so many roses!” I complimented. “Yeah. You have so much food!” she replied. “I know right? I didn’t know I was receiving anything this year!” I said. “I didn’t know I was too!”
And then suddenly… “How many roses do you have?” was asked. “About 7” she said and I probably had at around 4. If it was possible, I probably would have exhaled fire in that moment.
“How many things were given to you all in all?” I asked still feeling the competition. “12 I think.” I had 12 too with me having more food and her having more roses. From then on, everything became a competition for the clique. We were the not-so-friends kind of friends, but I was still able to convince myself that they were the truest confidants.
And let me tell you, I had the same crush in third, fourth and fifth grade who did the same thing every Valentine’s day… Not give me a thing. The year after? He left and transferred. Maybe cupid was bad at aiming but cupid knew one thing: unrequited love is still love
If there were anything else I could tell cupid, it would be that I hoped he shot more boys in fifth grade. I needed more cupcakes and who knows? I could’ve won that silent competition.