“A Valentine for Valerie,” Friend, Feb. 1988, 2
“This one’s for Valerie,” I said with a grin, and held up the tiniest valentine in the whole package. It was just one small heart with “Have a heart—Be my valentine,” printed across it.
Mom looked at the valentine and asked, “Who’s Valerie?”
I scooted my chair a little closer to the kitchen table and wrote Valerie’s name on the back of the tiny card. “Oh, she’s a new girl in the class,” I mumbled. “At least, she was new a month ago.”
Mom took the valentine from me and looked at it again. “Why does Valerie get this one?”
I heaved a big sigh. “Mom, she’ll be lucky to get any valentines. I bet I’m the only kid in the whole class who gives her one.”
I reached for the valentine, but Mom held it back. “So if this is going to be her only valentine,” Mom asked, still holding the tiny heart, “why give her this one?”
“Well, after I picked out the cards for my friends and the rest of my class, that was the only one left.”
For a long time Mom didn’t say anything. She just looked down at the small valentine, with her lips pressed together. Finally she asked, “Don’t the kids like Valerie?”
I squirmed a little in my chair. “I didn’t say that they didn’t like her,” I answered. “I just said that nobody would be giving her a valentine. And they won’t.”
“Oh, Mom,” I moaned. “They just won’t. Valerie’s kind of different. Some kids just are.”
“Well,” I mumbled, “she doesn’t ever say anything. Even when Miss Willis talks to her, she just whispers or nods her head. And she’s not very cute. She always wears the same sweater, and most of the time her hair isn’t even combed. Bobby Richards says she has fleas.” Mom glared at me, so I added quickly, “But he’s just joking. She really doesn’t. She eats her lunch alone, and she—”
“So after everyone treats her like that,” Mom cut in, “you’re going to give her your very worst valentine?”
“Well, what’s wrong with that. Like I said, she’ll be lucky to get any.”
“Jared,” Mom sighed, “is that what Sister Hansen teaches you in Primary?”
“Aw, Mom, this is for school, not Primary,” I pointed out, trying to sound like I believed it. But I got a funny twitching inside, and I knew that Valerie’s valentine had a lot to do with Primary.
“Jared, if what you learn in Primary doesn’t help you in school, then what good is Primary? And what about everything that your dad and I have been trying to teach you all these years?”
I stared down at my hands and shrugged my shoulders.
For a long time we just sat there. Then Mom spoke quietly, “Have you wondered what it would be like to go to a new school and not have any friends? All the time you’d be thinking that there wasn’t a person in the whole world who liked you. And then on Valentine Day, when everyone else is expecting to get lots of valentines, you only get the tiny ones that nobody wanted to give to their friends. How would you like to be Valerie?”
“All right,” I mumbled, reaching for one of the nicer valentines in the package, “I was going to give this one to Brad, but I guess I can give it to Valerie if you want me to.”
Mom shook her head. “Don’t do it for me, Jared. Do it for Valerie.”
“All right,” I growled, “I’ll do it for Valerie.” I reached for a pencil so that I could write Valerie’s name on it.
“Wait,” Mom said suddenly. “Let’s give Valerie a special valentine.”
“This is a special valentine!” I protested, holding up the one I’d planned to give to Brad. “It’s the best one I have!”
“But there will be others like it. Let’s give her one that is the very best of all, one that will make her smile for the rest of the day.”
Before I could say another word, Mom headed for the cupboard and began pulling down flour and sugar and salt and other stuff.
“What are you going to do?” I asked.
“We are going to make a valentine for Valerie.”
“What do we need all that for?”
“This isn’t going to be just an ordinary valentine.”
At first all I did was watch, but soon my hands were covered with flour and sugar, and Mom and I were having a great time.
Mom and I mixed up a whole glob of dough. Then we rolled it out on the table and shaped it into a giant heart. Mom popped it into the oven, and I began getting out ingredients for the frosting. Then, when the giant heart came from the oven and was cool enough, we set to work, decorating it with white, red, and pink frosting and some jelly beans. We gave the heart a face, and across the face in fat red letters we wrote, “Have a heart” and “Be my very special valentine.”
When we were finished, I licked my lips and grinned. “Let’s eat it now,” I said.
“Don’t you dare!” Mom threatened, shaking her finger at me and trying hard not to laugh.
“But it’s too good to just give away—to anybody!” I exclaimed.
“It’s too good to keep!”
“But, Mom, I can’t give this to Valerie,” I objected. “What will everybody think? They’ll say that she’s my girlfriend.” I could feel my cheeks burning. “Even if I do want to be nice to her, I sure don’t want everybody saying that she’s my girlfriend.”
Mom thought for a minute. “Don’t tell anyone. When no one is looking, you can slip it into her envelope. She’ll know that someone in the class gave it to her. Just knowing that she has a friend, even if she doesn’t know who it is, will make all the difference in the world. And I can promise you that tomorrow Valerie will be the happiest girl in your whole class.”
The next morning, with Valerie’s valentine tucked in my backpack, I headed for school. All morning I kept the valentine hidden in my desk, waiting for a chance to slip the giant cookie into Valerie’s valentine envelope. But I never had a chance. Someone was always around.
Just when I’d given up hope, the lunch bell rang and everyone rushed to the cafeteria. I was alone! Snatching the valentine from inside my desk, I sneaked to the back of the room and slipped it into Valerie’s envelope. It barely fit. There were a few other valentines there, but they were just little ones like the one that I had planned to give her before Mom had talked to me. I was glad that Valerie would have at least one good valentine.
It wasn’t until the middle of the afternoon that Miss Willis let us start our valentine party. We played games and had cookies and punch before Miss Willis went to the back wall and took down each of the valentine envelopes and called us up one at a time to get them. Valerie’s was the second to the last. When Miss Willis took it down, she exclaimed, “Valerie surely has some heavy valentines in her envelope!”
Valerie shuffled shyly to the back of the room and took her envelope from Miss Willis. As soon as she felt how heavy it was, a smile tickled the corners of her lips. Everybody watched Valerie as she returned to her seat and sat down. At first she just left the envelope unopened in front of her. Then Martin Turner shouted, “Come on, Valerie, let’s see what’s inside.”
Valerie’s face turned red, and she ducked her head. She carefully opened the envelope and peeked inside. Then she slowly pulled out the giant valentine cookie that I had wrapped in red tissue paper. Everyone in the whole class was quiet and stared at the mysterious package. As Valerie pulled away the paper, her eyes widened and her mouth dropped open.
“How beautiful!” Miss Willis exclaimed. “Who’s it from?”
Valerie searched for a name, but there wasn’t one. Finally she shrugged her shoulders.
“It’s a secret valentine.” Miss Willis smiled. “That’s the very best kind.”
Valerie nodded and smiled. Then suddenly she said, “Thank you, whoever you are. It’s the best valentine in the whole world!” She was absolutely glowing!
After school I ran all the way home. “She loved it!” I shouted as I charged through the front door and raced for the kitchen, where Mom was peeling potatoes. “Everybody loved it. They all said that it was the very best valentine they’d ever seen.”
Mom smiled. “And did she find out who gave it to her?”
I shook my head. “She never guessed, so she she thought we were all her friends. And shared it with the whole class. And she talked, Mom! And after school I saw her walking home with Amy and Sylvia and Tara. It was like magic.”
“And was she the happiest girl in the class?”
“The very happiest!” I grinned.
“And who was the happiest boy?” she teased.
I grinned. “Me, of course.” And I was.