The other day, I got a package in the mail from my mom and dad. In it, was a little Valentine’s day gift (yes, I know I am 27 years old.. what is your point, please?), as well as this vintage looking card with Raggedy Ann on the front:
Curious, I opened it up to reveal that this was one of the cards I had given away myself in elementary school.
Cute, eh? I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty sure I gave these out in grade 3. I also dressed up as Raggedy Ann for Halloween that year, so the timeline (and sadness) of it all would make sense.
Anyway, it all got me to thinking about Valentine’s days past.
Back when I was a kid, Valentine’s day was invariably awesome. I’d wake up to some little treat from my parents; a card with some chocolate, some new barrettes, maybe even a Barbie (!!!) and then sit down to what I can only assume were my dad’s attempt at heart-shaped pancakes.
Then, I would deck myself out in red from head to toe (even the socks. I was a Valentine’s day extremist) and head to school, where we’d spend the morning fashioning little envelopes out of construction paper to hang on the edge of our desks to collect our Valentine’s bounty.
After lunch was when the magic happened: Everyone brought in some food item to share with the class; (homemade cupcakes if your mom was fancy; a box of Oreos in my case) and there was often a bowl of punch, which, as a kid always made you feel very grown up.
Then, when it was time, you’d walk around the room and drop your painstakingly chosen Valentines into the newly minted envelopes of each of your classmates. No one was ever left out; as the rule in my school was that everyone got a Valentine.
When all was said and done, I’d lay them all out on my desk; analyzing my haul the way I would my Halloween candy. Disney cards were always a constant; The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast. Other themes varied from year to year. One year Power Rangers was big; another year I distinctly remember getting 6 separate Sailor Moon cards.
I can’t help but wonder; when did it all change? When did Valentine’s day go from being this awesome day filled with treats, kitschy cards and self-assurance; to the polarizing, commercial holiday it is today? When did we start calling it “Singles Awareness Day”, rather than just “Best Day Ever”?
Was it once elementary school ended, and the safety net of everyone getting a card was cruelly ripped out from under us? Or was it even sooner? Come to think of it, I remember as early as grade four, poring over the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles card given to me by my crush, analyzing the cryptic message inside. “You have a Pizza My Heart” it read. Did this mean we were officially an item now? He had pushed me in the mud earlier that day…
I can’t say for sure, but I kind of long to have those days back. I want to make sh*t out of construction paper again, and dress in monochromatic red with reckless abandon. I want to drink Hawaiian punch out of a fancy bowl and gorge myself on Grocery store slab cake. (Ok, that last part I will probably still do; though it will be in the solace of my own home rather than a classroom setting. And the punch will probably be spiked with the good stuff). Who’s with me? Let’s find a DeLorean and make it happen.