Friday, February 14, 2014

Right Here Waiting for My Delivery- Tales of a 6th Grade Valentine's Day

It's Valentine's Day, and personally, I don't care if you love it, loathe it, or really don't give a damn. It's here, let's deal with it, and let's do that by letting me tell the story of my 6th grade Valentine's Day.

February 14, 1989. It's a Tuesday... that means it's a school day. This was before everyone's panties were in such a bunch over how kids should "express" themselves on Valentine's Day and the logistics of bringing balloons and packages and flowers and crap onto the buses... and before SOME kids were such open boogersnots to those in authority. Look, in 1989 if Frank the Bus Driver told you to sit your happy little butt back down and get control of your roses/balloons/giant chocolate panda bear you DID it... because if Frank the Bus Driver had to tell you again? Well... God have mercy on your soul.

What this means is that in 1989 at my middle school the hormones were in full bloom and so were the acres of roses, balloons, and teddy bears deposited in the tiny school office every February 14th.

I'd heard tales. I'd heard about how the florists made trip after trip, how the office overflowed with tokens of love purchased by the mothers of twelve and thirteen year old boys who, let's be honest, had no clue nor interest. Mothers of twelve and thirteen year old boys understand... after all, we're wishing someone would take our OWN husbands shopping.* Oh, I'd heard... and you know what? I had a boyfriend. I had a boyfriend for VALENTINE'S DAY. 


OK, I don't know if you can really call "dating" in middle school dating. What it was, mostly, was two people of opposite genders calling each other on the phone and then not really talking.... and seeing each other in the hall and saying "Hey!" in a somewhat happier tone than we might otherwise use. The real romance happened in the notes girls wrote back and forth to each other absolutely swooning over the FEELING put into that last "hey". And when he'd stop by your locker to say "hey" in the morning? Before class? Well someone turn on the Richard Marx, 'cause baby he was RIGHT THERE WAITING FOR YOU. 

I'll pause here while every woman of a certain age sings the chorus. You know you are.

The protocol at my middle school was simple- hands off until the end of the day. During homeroom/clubs (held during the last half hour of the day) the office secretary would make final announcements and then list off any students who had "items" waiting in the office. Any other day you didn't pay attention, unless it was your birthday and you had the parents that sent balloons and giant cookies and teddy bears. But Valentine's Day? On Valentine's Day EVERYONE listened. If you had a boyfriend you listened with a certain smugness. If you had a crush, you listened with EVERYTHING IN YOUR SOUL CROSSED THAT YOU WOULD HEAR YOUR NAME AND ZOMG! If you were single you kept talking to your friends and pretending NOT to listen (but you so totally were)  unless you had those parents that not only sent you balloons and giant cookies and teddy bears on your birthday but also for every other holiday ("Oh, look Jim! Let's send this Tree shaped balloon with Blue Jay conservation cookie to Suzie for Arbor Day!"). On February 14, 1989 I sat back in my desk, all prepared to give my friends the wide eyed "*I* have something? Me????? On Valentine's Day????" look... because I KNEW. Not only did I have A BOYFRIEND but said boyfriend had told me that he and his mom went out the night before and got "something" for me. I'd kept that little nugget to myself all day long, just waiting... waiting.

The list was long.... even though my last name started with "E" I knew it would be a while... Anderson... Brewer.... Coffman.... Drake... Fisher... wait. Back up. My friends were still half listening along, no squeal, no shocked looks. Maybe they were going by grade? Then another sixth grader squealed, right before an eighth grader and that wiped that idea out of the books. This had to  be a mistake... SURELY IT WAS A MISTAKE. I mean, he'd told me! He'd told me he and his mom had picked something out and it was being delivered. He meant here, right? Not my house? did he even know where I lived?

There had to be a mistake. So when the final bell rang I gathered up my things and marched down to the office, friends in tow. One had to pick up her balloons, giant cookie, and teddy bear anyway so it would be so simple for me to slip in and point out the... well, the whatever with my name on it that had been overlooked. The hall was filled with squealing girls and boys who just really wanted to go play basketball in the gym but whose mothers had told them to BE NICE. While my friend found her stuff I stepped into the quiet of the office.

"Excuse me." I wasn't the least bit shy or concerned. I KNEW it was just a simple mistake. "There's supposed to be something here for me. From my boyfriend." Emphasis on boyfriend. Because I HAD ONE. The secretary checked the list she had. No, nothing with my name on it. Maybe his name had been entered instead? No, nothing. Was there anything that hadn't been logged in yet? That they'd just read names off of? Anything?

Of course not. Oh the pre-teen HUMANITY.

I slipped out of the office, not sure if I was pissed off or sad or if I even really cared except that... that... I had a BOYFRIEND and I was supposed to get SOMETHING and my  name was going to be read OVER THE INTERCOM. But it wasn't. My friend was waiting for me with a raised eyebrow. "I thought I left something," I explained, and helped her navigate what had to be the inspiration for the movie "Up" down the hall and out the door, all the while envisioning what had to be the obvious cause- he was breaking up with me for someone else and SHE was who got the... whatever.  Some other girl (slut!) was his Valentine. Because when you're 11 and just figuring out this whole "boys and girls" thing... rationality isn't high on the list.

The next day as I finished my homework in homeroom, the end of day announcements came over the intercom. I paid zero attention until something caught me at the end. "You have something in the office, how nice!" My homeroom teacher smiled and passed me a hall slip so I could go get it and still make it out to the bus. The tables that had held countless roses and balloon bouquets and other shrapnel of the heart had been put away and the hall was mostly empty as I slipped into the office. "I have something?"

It was just one rose, one little red rosebud inside a little glass vase. Attached to the red ribbon around it was the standard florists card featuring flying, armed babies and floating hearts. My boyfriend had signed it in his nearly illegible scrawl... and he'd signed it "Love". LOVE. It didn't matter that the florist had misplaced it, causing it to arrive a whole 24 hours late, that I'd missed participating in the crush of feminine competition for "Whose Boyfriend Loves Her More". There wasn't another girl, I really was his Valentine. We'd only last another couple of weeks... by Spring Break we were old news. But on that day, February 15th, I not only had a BOYFRIEND, but one who signed my card with "Love". And as the bell rang and I stepped into the hall with my little token of "love", I realized that I stood out. Yesterday had just been a blur of red and pink and balloons and flowers and hearts... on February 15th my little rose was the star of the show.

"Hey," he said, passing by my friends and I as we analyzed his handwriting for secret clues.

"Hey," I smiled back. Cue the piano solo.... wherever you go, whatever you do.... 

*My husband is really actually freakishly good at picking out gifts most of the time. I couldn't throw him completely under the bus. But about 10% of the time I will not only throw him under the bus but back it up, drag him out, and throw him back under it again. Just sayin. 

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