I had considered posting Rumi for you this poetry Tuesday but I got sidetracked by an old memory. I made a joke in response to a friend on Twitter and I was reminded of those grade school Valentine’s Days. As a word of warning, I don’t remember them fondly. Pinterest didn’t exist back then, nor was Martha Stewart spewing her brand of crafty. We had glitter, we had glue, my house had angst and difficulty. We bought Valentines at the grocery store, often at the last minute. We had love too in my family, of course, we just did not have a lot of room for detailed attention to Valentine’s day, at least, that is how I remember it. I’ll allow for the fact that as kids we don’t always latch on to the big picture. It’s interesting what we retain in our middle age years.
For me, Valentine’s day will always be sitting in the left-hand side of the school room (facing the teacher) near the middle of the row, in front of Angie Doran and behind Monica Coors. Steve Hart sat in the row next to me, year after year. He was my grade school crush. Looking back on things, I realize it may have been because he teased me all the time that I paid him any attention at all. It wasn’t fun teasing, it was hurtful. I was that kid. I was the girl who did well in school, made no waves, daydreamed in class and whose clothes were worn, out of date, hand me downs. I was the skinny, gawky girl, unexceptional and plain, who for reasons I cannot even fathom, drew the teasing of class mates. I guess I didn’t fight back and that might have been an encouragement to my teasers.
This morning as I got ready for a meeting I was reminded of my feelings toward Valentine’s day. The day when hearts and hurts were passed around. It was, for me, one more opportunity to know that I was the weird kid, one more chance to get snide comments or to be passed over completely. I had friends, don’t get me wrong. I think I still have the Donald Duck Valentine’s card from my best friend, Margaret Wesley in my photo album someplace. My friends were true blue, my saving grace, really. Kids need to be reminded often, in my opinion, that 1)they are special and 2)they are not alone. In a perfect world, this is what the exchange of Valentines really ought to be…a reminder that you are special and that you are not alone. I got glimpses of that as a kid and for that I’m grateful, truly. It makes me sad, though, that the memory I conjure first around Valentine’s day is about Steve Hart and Monica Coors and Kathy Moore, teasing me and not around that Donald Duck Valentine from Margaret. That I would still feel the hurt of those early years of school here, now, in my mid 40’s is troubling, or maybe, it is that I am still that melancholic, weird girl, only now, truth be told, I actually like being that girl. I finally grew into her.
Maybe what troubles me about my memory of being teased into tears as a kid is that by holding on to that injury I become less able to embrace that odd kid I used to be. I give power to the children who didn’t know any better than to treat me poorly. I peg them as “mean kids” even now without any thought to what life might have been like for them at home, what trouble might have led them to pick on that sweet, quiet girl who didn’t fight back. I wonder now, even still, if they know how much damage I sustained from their words, their pranks, their withholding of dime store candy on Valentine’s day. I wish I had more grace for those kids. I hope it comes to me a little stronger each time Valentine’s day rolls around. I’m working on it.