It’s six days to Valentine’s Day and as it nears, I recall the Valentine’s Day parties we had in school in the 1960s.

Valentine’s Day was a pretty important holiday back then.

For days beforehand, we planned and crafted Valentine’s Day boxes to bring to school.

We also bought Valentine’s Day cards in packages of a dozen from the F.W. Woolworth Co. store in downtown Skowhegan. On the backs of the cards, we wrote notes to classmates.

My sisters and I typically created Valentine’s boxes from a shoe box by cutting a rectangular slot in the cover and covering the entire thing with tinfoil, being careful to keep it smooth and not let the foil crinkle.

We cut hearts and arrows from red construction paper and used white paste that smelled delicious but tasted bad to affix the hearts and arrows to the box.

We carried the box to school and placed it on display in our classroom.

Then we slipped cards into everyone’s box and afterward had a class party where we got to look in our boxes, read the cards and eat candy.

The teacher would award a prize for the most beautiful or extraordinary Valentine’s Day box, and although when I brought mine to class thinking it was just beautiful, my enthusiasm was typically quashed when I saw all the others.

There was always a student or two who, it was obvious, had help from their mother or sibling in creating a box shaped like a castle, or a big heart, or something way over the top like that. You could tell they took days to develop and those kids always won the contest.

At the end of the school day, we’d take our boxes home and show our parents all our cards and read them over and over again. They were like little gifts, and the sweeter the message, the more precious they were.

Oh yes, Valentine’s Day was big.

One year when I was fairly little, I woke up sick and feverish on Valentine’s Day. I had been so looking forward to our class party and had my Valentine’s box all ready, but my mother insisted I stay home. She was a registered nurse and was very serious when it came to illnesses.

I remember sitting next to the warm stove in the kitchen in my pajamas, my mother feeling my forehead, remarking that my cheeks were red and, sadly, telling me I could not go to school. I begged and begged, but to no avail.

I promptly got up from the chair and headed to the dining room to go back to bed when I passed out cold under the archway between the kitchen and dining room, cracking my chin open on the threshold strip. I woke up a bloody mess and in pain.

My mother took me to the hospital where a doctor sewed several stitches in my chin, leaving a white mark that is still visible today — a reminder of my not-so-happy Valentine’s Day.

The upside was that our teacher made sure I got all the cards from my classmates and saved me some candy from the party, including tiny multicolored hearts bearing messages like “You’re Mine” and “Be My Valentine.”

Valentine’s Day in my youth was a sweet day, when we kids complimented each other and declared our friendship and fondness for each other.

Would that we maintained that enthusiasm and lightheartedness, well into our adult years.

Heaven knows we could use a little more love and affection in these tumultuous times.

 

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 31 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected] For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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