Saturday, February 12, 2022

Won't you be mine?


 Valentine's Day, 1965.  

There was a new boy in my sixth grade class.  He liked me.  And I liked him.  He was handsome with dark curly hair and a sweet smile.  I remember his name was Joel.  But most of all, I remember how he was one of the three "Mail Delivery Volunteers" for our class Valentine's Day Celebration.  Back in those days, there was a tradition of either making our cards or buying a box from Woolworth's.  You could buy a box of twenty tiny cards for under a dollar and that was enough because there were only 12 children in my class.

At the end of the school day, we were served vanilla cupcakes with pink icing and paper cups filled with Hawaiian Punch.  It was a sugar-fueled day, because this was just the beginning.  There were also candy hearts with little sayings on them, like "Be Mine" and "Best Friends 4 ever" and the racier, "Cutie Pie."  And grownups shared in the fun.  I remember how my father, Papa Callan arrived on the 6:19 p.m. train from Grand Central Station carrying a big red shopping bag filled with chocolate hearts for me and my brother--and for my mother, he brought a big heart-shaped box covered in red satin and adorned with a pink silk bow, filled with assorted chocolates.

But, back to the handsome boy named Joel.  Just before this particular Valentine's Day, he had been selected to make the official Valentine's Day Post Office Box.

Clearly, he was a born romantic, because the box he made was so beautiful.  He had covered it with red construction paper and paper doily hearts glued on top of this, so that the red flirtatiously peeked through the white cut-outs.  And then, there was the crepe paper glued around the opening where the letters were to be deposited.  The streamers were pink and white and red and every time someone picked up the box, it looked as if it was dancing.  Honestly, the box looked as if it was going to run away from home and begin a career on stage--dancing and singing and turning and twirling.  It was that spectacular.  This box deserved to be starring in its own Broadway musical!

I loved this box and I think I fell a little in love with this boy because of this box.

And you know what--at the end of the school day when all the celebrations were through, Joel gave it to me.

Yes, he gave it to me!

By then, it was snowing and so I tucked the Valentine's Box under my woolen coat and walked home with it, shielding the cumbersome thing from the elements.  And ultimately, I got it home mostly intact.  I kept this Valentine's Day box for a long time, even after graduation from elementary school, even after Joel and I parted ways--going to different junior high schools.  

But then, between the seventh grade and the eighth grade, I learned that Joel had died.  His family had been at a lake for summer vacation and he drowned.  This was the first time, that someone my own age had died.  It seemed impossible.  And yet, it had happened and the news left me profoundly sad for a very long time, shaken and dreaming of Joel under water, trying to speak to me.

This is what I know.  

The possibility of death is always with us, but I think we believe that if we do not love too much or too deeply, the loss of that love will not throw us off our axis.  It will not torment and torture us or make us so profoundly sad that we are not able to get up in the morning and do all that we need to do.

This is my first Valentine's Day I am spending without Papa Callan and so I am newly aware of the fragility of life and love.  I will think about the boy named Joel who was taken from this world too soon and I will think about Papa Callan who brought home chocolate hearts from the City, and I will think about you, my creative friends, because I know that you too are aware of the fragility of life and love.

Friends--your assignment for this week is make a valentine or two or three.  Just get in touch with that childhood part of yourself who loved construction paper and glue and those useless little safety scissors.  Get out the glitter.  Don't forget the ribbons, the string, cut-outs from magazines, and the candy hearts.  Share the laughter and the love. 

And finally, I want you to know, I love you.  There, I said it.  I don't even know all of you who read this newsletter, but I have decided to be absolutely wild and free with my I love you's, because, well, you never know what tomorrow will bring and why not grab this moment in time, to just say it. 

Happy Valentine's Day,



1 comment:

  1. Happy Valentine's Day Jamie!! So glad the you and your books crossed my path. You are dear and inspiring to well as many other I am sure. Much love mon amie!!


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