When Valentine’s Day lived up to its name

Whether it was a special card delivery in elementary school or a crokinole game in high school, this day never failed to disappoint

Valentine’s Day fell at a time of year when we were coping with the rigours of a prairie winter, when emotions were all but smothered by the very real effort it took to keep functioning.

Between the doldrums of January and the reality of spring, when snow banks became grey and life was tedious at best, there came a reason to celebrate the relationships we had come to take for granted.

Bright red hearts suddenly appeared on the landscape of our lives, decorating window displays, gracing newspaper ads and inspiring party themes.

Nowhere was this more evident than in the local school, where the yearly Valentine party was being planned. Elementary grade teachers employed the theme to encourage the making of cards, replete with red hearts, white paper doilies, and “roses are red, violets are blue” poetry.

The results often left much to be desired, especially after being scrunched into a lunch kit for the long ride home behind a horse-drawn van. Prairie mothers graciously accepted the creative efforts, concentrating instead on the intent, not the quality. I think they realized that kids accustomed to doing farm chores were probably not going to outdo Van Gogh.

When Feb. 14 finally arrived, a big red “post box” at school was bursting with cards. The romantics among us, who had crushes on the nicest boy in class, blushed in anticipation as “postmen” wearing hearts pinned to their caps delivered the valentines. What a thrill it was for me to receive that special card, all flowers and full of love, but what a blow to discover he had given the same card to at least eight other girls.

It nearly broke my heart.

The anguish of the youthful is temporary, however, and I recovered amazingly fast, the healing process no doubt aided by the treats that awaited: cakes swirled with pink icing, chocolate cupcakes frosted in peppermint icing, and big pans of homemade fudge.

Entering high school, students felt far too sophisticated for Valentine’s Day parties, and one year we planned a crokinole tournament. Names were drawn, and certain culprits deviously teamed me up with the new young principal.

Be it understood that I had never even seen a crokinole board, let alone played the game, and rumours had it that the principal was an expert. Suffice to say that due to my clumsy attempts, he and I lost the tournament, but he was gracious in defeat, although he no doubt felt it lowered his status in the eyes of the other students.

But not in mine. I went on to fall in love with him, and he with me, and we were married four years later.

For the next 58 years we learned that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Love never fails.

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