Imagine a day many years ago, when a substitute filled in for one of the teachers in my elementary school. February 14th was a day of great expectations: home room mothers were bringing in cookies and juice for treats; construction paper hearts adorned the windows; and all the children’s decorated boxes were lined up at the back of the room, filled during the previous days with numerous little cards and greetings from classmates.
Imagine, Mom, how one substitute made sure that no child was disappointed when it was time to read the valentines in the boxes. Who sensed which children might not receive many cards–the shy or lonely ones, those who were often left out of playground games, those whose boxes had very few greetings even on the day before—and who do you think played Cupid? The night before Valentine’s Day, what if that one special person recruited me to help (I was an “older kid”–in 6th grade, I think), and what if she and I addressed two special cards for each of the children who otherwise might not receive many?
One was store bought, with funny cartoons and cute messages…and a sucker tied to the card with a ribbon. For each of these cards it was my job was to print the student’s name on the envelope with a crayon, and on the card I printed messages like “You are my best secret pal!” or “Happy Valentine’s Day to the nicest boy (or girl) in the class!” You were the special person, Mom, who gave me the job of being anonymously creative, and I loved it!
The second card was one of the common little folded greetings sold in packs of a dozen at the dime store. Do you remember printing the student’s name on the envelope (writing like a kid), tucking the folded heart inside the envelope, and then adding little candy hearts printed with special messages. Five candies in each envelope! Do you remember how much fun it was to prepare these special valentines?
The next day imagine us arriving early at school. I went with you into the classroom. While you set up materials for the day, I delivered the extra special cards to the boxes that obviously had fewer cards than the others. I had a great time, and I promised not to tell anyone. Until now.
You don’t remember the wonderful things you’ve done for children, Mom, but this Valentine’s Day story illustrates one way you cared for all children: your own children and grandchildren; children you helped in CASA and taught in Sunday School, in kindergarten classes, and wherever you encountered children of all ages. I remember, Mom, the difference you made day after day, year after year, with your full, kind and loving heart. I write this post so your great-grandchildren will know you better.
John Updike wrote: “We are most alive when we’re in love.” Which explains why you have lived so long and been so content in spite of the dementia you have now…you’ve always been in love, with life and with children.