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Valentines - Schott at Sunrise

Sons help remove stinger from “bee my honey” valentine

Nothing tugs at a mother’s heart as much as rummaging through that special place where we keep the treasures from our children’s growing years.  For me, that place is the lovely cedar chest my parents gave me when I graduated from high school.  Every so often, I open the lid and let the sweet aroma fill the room as I hold each memory of my sons for a moment or two -  the locks of hair, first shoes, spoons that held their first taste of food,  school papers, rainy-day artwork. newspaper clippings from BMX races and skateboard competitions.

One day, I came across a noodle-decorated shoebox that Richie made to hold the valentines he had received in 2nd grade. The paper lace doilies are frayed now, the red hearts are faded, and more than a few noodles have pulled loose from the bent lid. Perhaps a few noodles have pulled loose from the lid of this sentimental old fool, too, but yes, that tattered box remains among my precious treasures!

Truth is, the memories of my own youth have slipped out of that old shoebox too,  because my most memorable valentine as a child came when I was in the 2nd grade. That’s the year I got a sweet message from David, the dimple-cheeked boy of my dreams. Actually, most every girl in class had eyes for David.  But it was me, just me, who received a picture of a smiling bumble bee flapping its wings on top of a red heart inscribed with the words, “Bee my honey.” It was simply signed, “from David.” What a magical moment! David loves me, I thought!  And though he never said a word to me after that (too shy I suppose), I considered him my boyfriend for the next two years. Then, I moved away and never saw him again. For a long time, I felt dreadful for hiding my heart and also for breaking his heart by moving away.

It wasn’t until my 7-year-old son was signing valentines for his school party that I began to question David’s true love for me after all these years. Richie was playing with his Hot Wheels Track Set when I mentioned that a stack of valentines were waiting to be signed on the kitchen table.  He grumbled about it a bit, but soon signed his name to the sentimental messages. As he came to the names on the list of his classmates, he signed “from Richie” over and over without even looking at the message. “Wait a minute,” I said. “This little kitten valentine to one of the girls in your class says, 'You’re purr-fect for me.’ I thought you were sweet on Kelly."  "Well  ...  It's just a silly valentine, Mom. It doesn’t mean anything, but you said I have to give one to everybody in class."

That’s when I realized that David was probably playing with Tinker Toys or Lincoln Logs when his mother reminded him to sign valentines. It’s quite likely that my name on his list of classmates coincided with the honey bee valentine.  The thought of it took me by surprise, yet, I chuckled with the relief of it all!  Still, the noodle-clad shoebox makes me wonder about the little girl who may have once thought she was "purr-fect" for my son when his true valentine sat across the room.  Once again, I suppose I’m reading too much into valentines from 2nd grade boys.

What really matters, when I lift the lid on my cedar chest, is the beating hearts of my sons Richie and Jason -- the precious valentines they've made for me, with simple grace, over the years.  I picture them, sitting at their little school desks, fingers wrapped around  plastic scissors, snip, snip, snipping those rough-shaped hearts from red construction paper, a red that will never fade, and scrawled with the words, "I love you Mom" in crayon. Sure, maybe the valentines were art projects that day, but there’s no mistaking, these valentines were only meant for me!

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