Monday, February 8, 2010

Weekly Reflection (week 6): Hearts Abound

What memories first come to mind when you think about Valentine's Day?

Originally I was thinking about first crushes for this week's reflection. Somehow that morphed into memories of Valentine's Day as a child and kindergarten memories. (Okay, so no big stretch of the imagination here as Cowgirl will be attending kindergarten next year and we have been talking about cards for her classmates.) When I think about Valentines, what immediately comes to mind are all the school art projects where we decorated a shoebox brought in from home with construction paper hearts, paper doilies, glitter and stickers. Thank goodness our parents had a steady supply of empty shoe boxes!

For my first school Valentine's celebration we made large heart shaped enveloped painted red and colored with magic markers. Sometime during the day, cards would be placed inside the envelope which we could not open until we got home. Even though I had to give a Valentine to every student in the class, I somehow believed that was not the general case and I worried about who might or might not give me a card. That kindergarten year, I had my first crush (excluding crushes on t.v. characters like Robin on Batman or David Cassidy - yikes!) on a boy named Mario. I grew up in a predominately Irish/Italian community and even at 5 I somehow knew a boy named Mario was an exotic creature. I believe his parent or parents were Spanish, his skin was caramel colored rather than olive or freckled (the norm for most of my classmates) and he had a mole on his cheek. He also seemed tall to me, although I have no idea what constitutes tall at 5 or 6 years of age. He was a nice boy and we went to school with each other for all 13 of our public school years. I honestly cannot remember him ever saying a single word to me.

Thinking about my 5 year old self, I can remember in great detail that kindergarten year. Our teacher was Mrs. Wolf and she played songs for us on the upright piano in the classroom. We had to bring in mats from home for nap time and I coveted the hot pink shaggy mat one girl, Michelle, had. My mat was a sad cast-off thin terry cloth bathroom mat that I remember as being a dull gray. I hated that mat, but I never told my mother anything about the mats and the apparent social hierarchy that they represented.

I also remember how every day before school ended we had to pick out the activity we wanted to do the next day. Mrs. Wolf would write our choices down in her black notebook and the next morning we would be asked if we remembered what we had selected. Every night I worried about forgetting tomorrow's task and I dreaded her pulling out that notebook. For some reason, my favorite activity involved pouring rice through a funnel (into what? I cannot remember!) or a similar task involved dried beans.

As I recall all these memories, I am seeing the seeds for many years of social anxiety and pressure were planted in that first school year. The desire to fit in, be liked, please others and do well were instilled through those most mundane events. What I wonder is if any evidence of my increasing discomfort was apparent or did I hide it from my mother? I want to believe I will be able to sniff out any such dis-ease in Cowgirl if and when the pressure sets in, but will I? Is that all a necessary part of growing up and learning to navigate and define what really matters for oneself or is it something to be guarded against and to be avoided if at all possible?

I've wandered off subject but somehow it seems right given the topic of Valentine's Day. A lovely holiday in sentiment, it rarely lives up to all the hype. Just like those boxes of Necco candy hearts - it is colorful, full of hearts and hope but somehow chalky and bland when you get down to it. Even when you get a Valentine from your crush, you can never really believe what the card says. But I am an optimist and every year I celebrate because I do believe in Love. Just not the kind that can be summed up by a small pastel candy heart.

And yes, if my daughter needs a nap mat for school, I would let her pick one out. Shaggy blue in all likelihood.


  1. I remember the exact Mario you are talking about, even if I went to the elementary school on the OTHER side of town. LOL.. we all got together in Middle and High School. I hadn't thought about him in years. At Linden we had Miss Wick, who I now refer to as Miss Ick. She hated me. She loved my sister and couldn't seem to understand how we could be so different and I, apparently, was the one who was wrong. I blocked out most of kindergarten but first through fourth grade were heaven. I remember it was in second grade so many people used code for their names, so I couldn't tell if my love gave me a special valentine or not, I didn't have the patient to decode it all!

    Valentine's Day hasn't been the same since Marlena died. We buried her on February 13 and the strength of that has stretched beyond the doily and glitter Valentines of childhood, though I did enjoy the year Emma was in kindergarten and she insisted we hand make her cards. :-)

    (I was blessed because Mom made Katherine's kindergarten nap mat - and she actually put the apple right side up on Katherine's. With mine, it was inexplicably upside down.)

  2. my word...I forgot about Valentines Day...sigh, where has the time gone? I love your valentine hearts.

  3. At ava's school, we're required to make the valentines at home. This year, we stuffed little socks with rice and lavendar and drew mouse faces on them (Cowgirl might be getting one of those in the next week or so). They were so fun to make and I completely forgot about the analyzing I used to do in elementary school. I rememebr one year a boy I liked gave me a valentine with an elephant on it- you can imagine what that did to my already poor self esteem.

    I plan to protect Ava from that for as long as possible. . .another year or two???

  4. Oops, the above comment was from Diana, not Nate :)