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Picture of Janet


A Little Valentine Story

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Picture a second grade class, decades before now. There were rotary telephones with party lines (which meant that sometimes you had to wait your turn to call). There was no digital highway or social presence, not a world of information just fingertips away. Cars and trucks were heavy, with lots of metal out of Detroit and gasoline was 20 cents a gallon. No one had more than one television. Some had none.

The small classroom at Sherwood Elementary held 31 students. Mrs. Henson had been teaching second grade for a long time and had to be at least 35. Her husband was the mayor of the little town in central Arkansas, a mostly blue collar population, almost all members of Victory Missionary Baptist Church or First Baptist. There were a sprinkling of Catholics.

In that class of 31 there were a range of personalities. No one had hit puberty and Mrs. Henson could see the potential. And the pitfalls. The class had been preparing for this this day for a week. On the off times of learning, they had been instructed and were following those instructions, to make their Valentine Boxes.

The boxes held potential, possible promises of love, or at least affection in the minds of the 8 year olds. The best sourced box was one that had held cigars, nicotine infusing the cardboard, the sweet, mildly intoxicating scent a remnant of the liquor store in which the cigars had been sold. Second choice was a shoe box. Shoe boxes at that time never held sneakers, they didn’t hold the cache they do today. It was the leather smell of high heels or highly polished wingtips. 

A freckled, small girl child had a secret. 

She was one of the smallest in the class, having yet to have her bacterial collecting tonsils removed. (At which point of removal she would leave the 38 pound weight category and reach a solid 44 on her short frame). The girl loved Jimmy, a boy in her class. It wasn’t clear why she felt this way. It would turn out that she was perceptive as we he would develop into a talented, if a bit tortured, writer. He was able to put words on paper that even those who weren’t as in love with football as he, would find his peek into people and what drives, them fascinating.

The girls secret was this; instead of the simple hearts and flowered, store bought cards, requesting that the recipient respond to a rather bland “would you be my valentine?”, she had fashioned a special, hand made one just for Jimmy. 

She had anticipated a problem. How could she let Jimmy know, in the very public parade of card exchange? Each person would file down the rows of desks, their boxes gayly decorated, at least most of them, without the rest of the class knowing what she wanted Jimmy to know? 

Cleverly, as she got up to distribute her cards, holding the thumb on her left hand on the inside of the  paper lunch sack that held the bland cards at the bottom, she placed Jimmy’s card under her thumb, careful to keep it separate. She came to his box, (he was a better writer than box decorator), looking at the slit in the top. She was glad that he had overdone the size of opening. In her expression of love, she had oversized her Valentine a bit. Nervous, her tummy full of butterflies, she slipped in into his box and looked at Jimmy. 

Jimmy didn’t notice. His heart on his face, he had left his seat. Shyly, he slipped the red heart shaped box full of chocolates and sweetly handed it to Theresa.

The little girl would find out later how smart Theresa was, she was quite clever and intelligent but for a long time she only saw her as the prettiest girl in class and that Jimmy knew this. The little girl felt a bit of shame and knew doubt, a dent in her confidence. She would never look like Theresa. Her dank and thin mousey brown hair would be with her trademark, never to have the pretty blonde silkiness able to hold the latest hairstyle.  

At dinner that night, her dad had noticed. The dad loved her with all his heart. He worried about her, the things he saw in her. Some would serve her well and some wouldn’t. Placing his arm around her and pulling her to his lap, she hiccuped her way through the story of Jimmy. 

Before she went to bed that night, the girl’s dad placed a small velvet covered box of chocolates in her hand. He kissed her good night and she held the little box tight, the cellophane crinkling, making a pleasant sound. Deep in her heart, or her soul, or maybe her mind, she started the journey where one can spend a lifetime considering the mystery of what it means for humans to love.


1. I pray if you are reading this, you know love. Long lasting, affirming love from above and here on earth.

2. From the day described in this story forward, Valentines’ Day would be a major celebration in our family, my dad uncharacteristically for him, continuing the tradition faithfully. And enjoying doing so.

3. It only seemed fitting to use then when after 17 years of sobriety, 2 years of horrible cancer therapy, at the age of 53, my Father in heaven would bring Dad home on Valentine’s Day, 1979. He was surrounded by his son and wife. His daughter after saying her goodbyes, was sent home to care for her son Jake and husband in Texas.

4. Jim Dent wrote “The Junction Boys”, which Holly wood turn into a movie, and he was the beat journalist for The Dallas Cowboys for a good part of his career. Decades later, I would tell him this story at the only class reunion I ever attended. 

Seminal moments in one’s life are often not the seminal moments for others and they needn’t be….  <chuckle>

5. The boxer is a painting of my Dad at 19, memory of a Golden Glove match he won and was highlighted in the newspaper. This, a seminal moment in my Dad’s life, would lead him to give his daughter many lectures on the value of humility and the negative impact of vanity and exhibitionism. The painting is by one of my favorite and very talented artists. For a full image go to Brett Borgard



7 Responses

    1. Fran, you have always been so supportive!! Thank you. But mostly, I am always glad to hear from you. GOd bless you. You are one of God’s finest.

  1. This took many of us back to a time when we could visualize our own decorated boxes , and the Valentine cards placed in them by classmates. The prettiest girl in the room was Billye Meyer and I had a huge crush on Randy Hamilton in my 5th grade class. I could hardly wait to open his card and read the candy heart inside of it…”You’re Nice”. Billye and I were dear friends and she received the one that said, “ I love you”. We stayed dear friends and I never told her what was written on mine.
    Thanks for taking me back to my 5th grade class party with Mrs. Birch!

  2. Happy Valentines my beloved friend. Amazing how we saw each other decades ago. Me, as ‘that Theresa’. And you, the prettiest and smartest of them all. I’ve always been in awe of your freckles. It was like you were blessed with all of the beauty matks. I remember my dad had started traveling 5 days a week selling church furniture the year prior. I think my mom made it her mission to tootle (is that a word?) with my hair, sew little brocade dresses for me and that of my year-younger sister in dad’s absence. We certainly ended up a ‘project’ – for better and sometimes worse. My world was definitely skewed.

    And I guess we all loved Jimmy at one time or another!

    1. Theresa, so good to hear from you!!! I hope you are well!! Thank you for your sweet comments. Hard to believe how long ago high school was.

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