Last night I was thinking about Valentine's Day, that slightly embarrassing reminder of when we wore our heart on our sleeve or wished we could. I don't think I've given or received a card since about 1955, although my high school and college days have gone mostly dark. But back in 1950, at PS 45, it was a big deal. Lynn tells me it's still a big deal in elementary schools.
My peak Valentine's Days were in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades. I imagine the event depends upon the teacher's enthusiasm, but Miss O'Conner, Mrs. Drum, and Mrs. Fitzgerald were fully on board. About half the class were with the program and would produce homemade cards, all red and hearts, maybe with a bit of lace from your mother's sewing basket. I can still recall the wonder of folding a piece of paper, drawing an ear, cutting it out and opening it to a heart.
At the appointed hour we would walk up and down the rows depositing cards in the recipient's paper bags. There was nothing personal about the exchange. If you made cards, you made them for everyone. Be My Valentine was a positive sentiment aimed at all of one's classmates. Relationships were mostly a matter of maintaining familiar faces, not realms for interpersonal exploration, much less romance.
By the time we got to the upper grades, the object of Be My Valentine began morphing from the group to someone in it. Each year one billion Valentine's Day cards are sent, making it the #2 card generating event. Next thing you know, you're watching Carmen. We gain and we lose. Then we lose again what we gain. To gain what I lost, I'm replacing my classmates with my g-mail contacts. Imagine a red heart, folded in half, scisser cuts not fully smoothed out. Open it,
BE MY VALENTINE