My Elusive Valentine

valentines, heart, crafts, love, children, youth

Friday, February 13th, 1992

To say I was smitten with Kristin would be an understatement.

Kristin had straight, strawberry-blonde hair and freckles. She was about my height and was also unemployed. There was something about the way she built a wall with those red cardboard bricks in kindergarten. That’s about all I knew about her. I didn’t know her political leanings or how she felt about important issues like grape versus strawberry jelly in a PB&J sandwich. After a year of staring at her, it was time to make my move. Out of the 70 kids in our 2nd grade class, she was the one.

And there was only one way to tell her how I felt: a special Valentine’s Day card. This card wasn’t like all the others for my 25 classmates. Hers was better. Kristin deserved something superior to the generic, perforated cardstock adorned with cartoon characters and bad puns about love. Stocked with a rainbow of construction paper–a name that has yet to make sense since I have never seen anyone on a construction site using 8×10 sheets of multi-colored paper–I started crafting the perfect token of my affection. Being 7 years old, I enlisted the aid of my mom whose artistic skills and ability to cut a straight line still surpass my own.

Yes. I did choose fire truck red paper. After all, this was a love note. Or at the very least a “Hey. Maybe you noticed me staring. I like you, or the very little I know of you.” None of those words made it into my all capital letter dedication. My mom had a white doily that we glued to the card. I think I wrote something poetic on it like

“HAPPY VALENTINES DAY, KRISTIN! WILL YOU BIRTH MY FUTURE CHILDREN?”

Then I put boxes for Yes/No/Maybe. I like to empower women with the ability to choose their own adventure. I was strongly pro choice in second grade. Maybe I didn’t put that last bit. But I was pleased with the creation.

The next day I packed my backpack with my school folders and 24 personalized envelopes for my classmates and one special, bigger card. We had an arranged time to exchange our valentines, but there was one big problem: Kristin was nowhere to be found.

Instead of being at school to receive my meticulously crafted creation, like she was supposed to be, she was home with a cold. This wasn’t how I envisioned my first profession of love playing out.

Upon arriving home, possibly crying, or sobbing, my mom asked what happened. I shared that my love wasn’t in school. Since it was a Friday, I wouldn’t be able to give it to her the following day and I clearly couldn’t wait until Monday. A large part of me misses this crippling head-over-velcro-shoes love. The older I get the more I realize I have deviated from liking someone without a single reason why.

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So there I was. Crestfallen. Tears. My entire romantic future shot because of a common cold. What other choice did I have but to hand deliver the card? I looked up her address in the school directory and, since I was without a license, my mom drove me to Kristin’s house. Once parked in the driveway, I became paralyzed. I couldn’t exit the car or walk to her door. Despite my mom urging me to deliver the card, I couldn’t do it. So my mom, a supporter of love, got out of the car, walked the 10 steps, rang the doorbell and delivered the card to Kristin’s mom. Then my mom and I returned home. A note to future mothers: none of these required mom tasks are covered in “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”

In hindsight, I don’t know what it was I feared. It was simply delivering an envelope. As unjustifiable as my liking her was, so too was my fear of rejection. There was no worst-case scenario. This nebulous unknown has often been the reason behind inaction, whether approaching someone or pursuing a career path. While the negative “what if” internal monologue can serve as a form of self-protection from being hurt, more often it can overpower “what if I don’t” logic and impede life happening.

Curious to know how the whirlwind Andrew + Kristin romance played out? Holding hands and skipping on the playground? Getting married on the painted map of the United States? Opening Capri Suns for each other at the lunch table? She came to school Monday and thanked me for the card. That was followed by avoidance. Two years or avoidance. Then, unexpectedly, she reciprocated and gave me my own special Valentine’s card. Hers was a flat card, but was also on red construction paper and had a lacy, white doily–clearly the most passionate symbol of love–and a heart-shaped chocolate taped to the center. In an effort to preserve the sentiment behind the card, I never ate the chocolate. But eventually my sister did.

Despite Kristin checking the “Maybe” box, we are now married with 17 children. Or, according to the internets, she is married to someone else and they have a kiddo. I hope her child has as memorable a first valentine as mine.

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