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  • Writer's pictureAlice Wyatt


Valentine's Day! Oh, the joy of Valentine's Day as an elementary school kid in the 1970s. It meant a party, no schoolwork all afternoon, red Kool-aid, cupcakes, and little heart candies that could break a tooth. Best of all, it meant creating a Valentine's Day cardholder. Crafting! Shoeboxes, construction paper, glue, scissors, stickers, and GLITTER, if the teacher doesn't remember last year's disaster. 

Finally, the moment came. The Distribution of The Cards. Valentines came in all shapes and sizes, primarily homemade, as the nearest place to purchase cards was 90 miles away. Kids fetch plastic sacks filled with cards from their book bags, then make their way up and down the aisles, envelopes clutched in sweaty hands. Everyone tries to look cool, trying not to make eye contact with their 4th-grade crush, though it is obvious the card slipped into that particular shoebox is just a bit bigger.  

It was a time of innocence. Everyone got a card, everyone got a cupcake, and everyone felt special. 

Fast forward to high school. Oh dear. Different vibe. It was all about who was going out with whom, who got invited to the Sweethearts Dance, and who got the most votes for the princess. Suddenly, evidence of love was a precious commodity to be fought over and envious of.  

This fall, I sorted through dusty boxes filled with mementos from my school days. A collection of report cards reminded me I coasted through my senior year. Fabric athletic letters, "LC," never made it onto a cool leather letterman's jacket because there was no money for those things. My diploma, Alice L. Lyons, May 21st, 1989. And… a handmade Valentine's Day card from Andy Wilder. 

Andy Wilder was one of those kids who never quite fit in. He moved to town in the sixth grade with his older brother and single mother. The rest of us had been together since kindergarten, and while we were not mean, we weren't friendly. We didn't find the need to create space for someone else. He moved away as a sophomore, and I never heard from him or thought about him again. 

Until last fall. The card I hold in my hand is simple, just a folded piece of heavy white paper, my name, ALICE, printed on the front in a bold hand. Inside, painstakingly handwritten, are all the verses of "You Are My Sunshine." So much work. So much vulnerability and courage. I don't even remember the moment he gave it to me. Was I kind? Yes, I was. I know that about myself. Did I ever ask Andy Wilder to escort me to a school dance? Did I sit by him at lunchtime or include him in my friend group? Unfortunately, I did not. But something made me keep his card all these years. 

I want to reach out to him across time and say, "Love matters. Your love mattered. I still have your card. Today, it made me feel loved, seen, and important. Thank you, Andy Wilder." 

Valentine's Day is one of those holidays that has become commercialized. Did you buy your sweetheart a new car? Don't forget the dozen red roses! Spend money you don't have to try and impress people who couldn't care less. I say we should go back to the elementary school mentality. Everyone is a valentine! Spread the love, share the candy, and shake on the glitter! Yes, it will still be around come the 4th of July, but hey, Valentine's Day only comes once a year.

For your enjoyment, a valentine that was given to my great-grandmother many, many, MANY years ago. She kept it, just as I kept Andy's Wilder's valentine. Another win for love.

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