Cognitively, fourth grade is THE year for Halloween. All fourth graders want to be firemen, ballerinas and pirates. It is the year for dress up. That year, I didn’t dress up. I had never dressed up, but it was particularly hard to go to school on Halloween. Fourth grade didn’t qualify as the worst Halloween memory ever, but it was close. I remember Dylan came as a Vampire/Devil. He thought it was so cool to mix those two icons into one Halloween costume. I came as nothing and sat in envy at my desk reading the biography of Davy Crockett while everyone else toured the school for the Halloween parade.
I must have attended the Christmas party. I have no recollection of it, so it must not have been that cool. I suspect that my teacher gave us cupcakes or something. I’m sure I ate the cupcake, trying to evade my guilt in favor of my sweet tooth. Maybe I took the Santa head off the cupcake so that I could pretend it was just a normal cupcake. I don’t remember.
It was Valentines Day that I wasn’t expecting. It happened right at the end of the second term. I had busted my butt, coming to school while sick and through those horrible holidays. Valentine’s Day didn’t even phase me. It hadn’t even been a blip on my radar. It was going to be just one of those silly holidays like Columbus Day. I would have to sit quietly while the other students made frilly hearts. Maybe I would bring the biography of Benjamin Franklin to read to keep myself busy. Then it was smooth sailing to the end of the term and that shiny certificate.
The vision of that shiny certificate became pale and indistinct on Valentine’s Day. I sat at my desk during the exchanging of the Valentines. I was quiet and near tears. Everyone was receiving Valentines from their friends saying, “Bee my Valentine” with a picture of a bee. Or maybe they said, “If you carrot all, you’d be my Valentine” with a picture of a smiling carrot. There was candy in some of the Valentines. Some of the parents brought cupcakes with candy hearts on the top saying, “Be Mine.”
I had to reject all the Valentines. I had to tell my peers why I didn’t have a box. I even said no to the cupcake from the mother who sometimes attended our class and helped the slow readers. I was a good Jehovah Witness girl because I had seen pictures of Armageddon and I didn’t want to die in a flurry of fiery rain just because I couldn’t say no to a cupcake.
I was just trying to hold on. If I could just hold on until I got home, I would be fine. I was walking home with my friend, Trudy Rushton. She was the good Mormon girl on Royal Anne Drive and my mom liked me to be friends with her. Right as we got to her house, she stopped and faced me, “I know you’re not supposed to get these, but I couldn’t let Valentine’s go by without giving you a Valentine’s Day card.” She handed me a tiny Valentine in a white envelope. I took it, choked out a thank you and ran the rest of the way home, leaving her at her house.
I can’t remember what the Valentine said, but she had written on the back, “You’re my best friend.” I cherished it, even though it might mean my demise in Armageddon. I showed it to my mom and asked her if I could keep it. She said I could, but I could never let my dad see it. I knew what that meant. If he found out that I had brought a Valentine into the house, he would think that it was “demonized” and destroy it. My beautiful little Valentine would be destroyed before my eyes if Dad found it. So I hid it.