When I attended elementary school, starting with kindergarten class in the building’s basement, until I rose to sixth grade on the top floor, I was a shy, mostly nervous kid, especially around girls. All my friends in the neighborhood were boys and whatever girls might have lived in the “hood” rarely played outside or hung around the boys (except for my younger sister, whom we really thought of as just another one of the boys).
I liked girls, at least from afar, but didn’t know what to do, how to act or what to say around them. When I tried to talk to them, I got literally tongue-tied. So, gratefully, the one time of year I was finally able to express myself and my feelings for them was on Valentine’s Day. But it had to be done very carefully!
Every year, as part of our arts and crafts class (remember when they did that good stuff in public school?), everyone would make a Valentine’s card “mailbox”. It was quite a meticulous and exhaustive process. We each started out with a shoebox we brought from home, cut a ¼ inch slit in the top and began to painstakingly decorate the outside. Of course, pink or red hearts, cut out from colored construction paper were customary (although the boys generally toned this down in favor of large Cupid’s arrows!). White, ornate, custom-cut (or pre-cut) doilies and lots of glitter were also very popular. After gluing on various non-sensical shaped paper or aluminum foil pieces, the whole thing got brushed with various paint colors - - and then came the scary finishing touch, your name was prominently printed on your mailbox! (Classmates invariably gave each other tons of grief for their mailbox designs - - whether they were good, bad, bland, or exotic, it almost didn’t matter!)
That was just the initial, traumatic step in the Valentine’s card giving (and getting) process. Next was the selection of the cards themselves. The first few years my Mom took care of that and just had me write kids’ names on the envelopes and randomly, it seemed, place the cards signed by me into their mailboxes. When I reached about third grade, though, I started to take this whole card selection thing very seriously! I spent hours in the local pharmacy or “5 and Dime” store going through boxed sets of cards until I found just the right ones. Then, the really time-consuming and nerve-wrecking challenge began - - who would get which card. The girl “of my eye” had to get the sweetest one, but not too serious lest I be laughed at! Then there were the nice, but not overly effusive cards for the other girls I “kinda liked.” Then, after I was fatigued by all that, the rest of the cards just got quickly, and without much thought, sorted out between the rest of the girls and all the guys (which turned out to be a big mistake I’ll explain in a minute!).
Then, there was the final, “icing on the cake” step - - placing one or two candy “sweethearts” in the envelope with each card. (If you don’t remember or know what “sweethearts” are, here’s a photo…)
You might note that each sweetheart has its own special message. And matching each message to each card was a delicate and scary endeavor! I wanted my “special Valentine” or “crush” to know I cared but not be too “mushy” about it. Selecting the rest of the sweethearts took equal amounts of attention, or should have (as I unfortunately learned in fourth grade, when the class bully received his card from me along with a sweetheart that said “Kiss Me” - - which he proceeded to do in front of everyone! Quite miraculously, he never picked on me again after that!).
The fateful, last step to this whole Valentine’s card process occurred when February 14th finally came and everyone opened their boxes, right in class. Those moments were for me filled with equal amounts of terror, excitement, and embarrassment as I saw others react to my cards and I sorted through the ones I got. Even a moment of eye contact with a girl I liked was an eternity in heaven or hell!
Fortunately, I seemed to survive this annual card giving tradition relatively unscathed. That is, until I encountered a new and much more horrifying Valentine’s Day event in sixth grade, my last year in elementary school.
The Valentine’s Day Dance
There’s a little “back story” I’ll need to tell you here. I never paid much attention to school “politics” and elections, and I never ran or campaigned for “office”. But I received lots of public attention from teachers in class and at school events as a top honor student. (I didn’t achieve all that because I sought the adulation of classmates, I just wanted to satisfy my parents, or else!). So when the election of sixth grade President came around, even though I never placed my name into nomination, I surprisingly won as a “write-in”! I wanted no part of this and tried to immediately resign, but my sixth grade teacher insisted I serve, which I did begrudgingly.
At first I didn’t mind being sixth grade class President (and by default, School President). It was just an honorary title with a few perks (I got to occasionally arrive late to school) and even fewer duties (like directing each class to its seats in the auditorium before an assembly or leading a “bomb shelter” drill - - this was right about the time of the Cuban missile crisis!).
Everything was going along fine, until I was informed I was to be in charge of the sixth grade Valentine’s Day dance! What a disgusting thing, dancing with girls! Yuk! Before I knew what hit me, I got caught in a huge argument between the boys and girls over the music to be played. The girls were crazy about the new sound of The Beatles, while the boys (including myself) mocked The Beatles as a bunch of high-pitched, screeching idiots with rag mop haircuts! (I later, however, did admit my error and became a huge Beatles fan!)
That whole music controversy was bad enough, but things got worse when the day of the dance came. My teacher told me that, as President, I would have to take the first dance, with a girl! I wasn’t fazed at first, because I thought someone amongst all the boys, particularly the more handsome, outgoing ones, would strike up the dance anyway. But when the dance began, the boys lined up on one side of the room refusing to move and the girls on the other, my teacher pushed me towards the girls and said “Dance!” I don’t remember much from there, because I literally almost passed out on my feet, but I do recall reaching out for a girl’s hand to walk her to the center of the floor and her hand slipped out of mine because my hand was soaking wet!
Thankfully, by the time I got to seventh grade and junior high school, this whole frenzy over Valentine’s Day seemed to subside. We didn’t make mail boxes in art period. Academics and clubs and sports became my major focus. I’m sure there were some Valentine’s celebrations or dances, but I didn’t really pay attention - - except I did occasionally summon up the courage to send a card to a special Valentine (and I do still enjoy that part of the “holiday” to this day!).
To Sum Up…
I suppose you may wonder how I’m going to tie all this to estate planning. Well, when I think about how people demonstrate love for others, it comes in all kinds of forms. To me, one of the greatest acts of love - - for your spouse or partner, children, grandchildren, and other loved ones - - is to make sure that they are properly taken care of if something were to happen to you. And one of the ways to do this is through a properly built and well-maintained estate plan. I consider it a great blessing that our firm has helped so many thousands of people over the years to complete this gift to their loved ones. If you haven't gotten your estate plan prepared or reviewed and updated in some time, I encourage you to do so. This may be the ultimate act of true love to your family and loved ones.
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