Valentine's Day is a big deal in third grade, exceeded in level of excitement only by Christmas. The energy ramped from normal to nuts over the course of the two weeks from the day I talked about the party and card exchange at the beginning of the month until yesterday. This was my last elementary school Valentine's Day party as a teacher in charge. Here are some of the highlights:
Best Gift - A wooden heart adorned with hideous red gel hearts and cupids, with #1 Teacher written in glitter glue. The erased first draft in pencil shows clearly. From my blooming flower.
Best Almost Gift - For days the twins, a boy and a girl, had been promising me a gift that I was sure to love. "Chocolate," they said. "My favorite," I said. "I know, it's really your favorite, See's Truffles," he said. "I can hardly wait," I said. "We bought your chocolates over the weekend," she said. "Do I have to wait until Friday?" I said.
Two days before the party he said, "My sister left your chocolate in a dressing room at the mall. We don't have anything for you now." She confirmed his story. I hope someone is enjoying my truffles.
Best Real Chocolate - One of my boys who insists loudly and often that he doesn't like girls, Jim Carey funny and bright as a sun's ray through winter clouds, "I have some chocolate. Where should I put it?" "I'm not sure. Where do you want to put it?" I'm thinking it's for the party. "Where do you want it?" he insists. The light dawns, "Oh, is it for me?" Blond boy head nods with eyes cast to the floor.
When I get to my desk later I find a red, heart-shaped, cellophane-covered box of cheap chocolates, probably bought by mom, but delivered so that there was no doubt about its real worth or who it was really from.
Best Moment - The bags have been distributed and kids are carefully pulling card after card out, yelling their thanks to each other across the room. Coming to me holding the small purple and gold package they know is from me ("because it's purple, of course!") asking if they can open it, like it's a great treasure to be handled with great reverence. The noise is deafening and overwhelming and I allow myself to stand and absorb the wild love of this little family I've created.
Best Surprise - One of my moms had insisted on hosting our party herself. Generally a group of moms will get together and decide on snacks and an activity, bring everything in, hang out with their kids and everyone is happy. I've never had just one be so determined to do a party by herself. I think she might have hurt the feelings of a couple of the other moms, but my approach has always been to say yes, provide the time, and stay out of the way.
This mom has been a bit unreliable all year, not showing up for conferences, often getting her daughter to school late. I wasn't sure what to expect. What we got was amazing. Hand made, heart-shaped sandwiches. A huge fruit plate. Heart-shaped, pink Rice Krispies treats. Sticky, crusty brownies. (I totally forgot - honest - about the no home-made food rule until my principal walked in while we were eating. She didn't notice. Whew!)
This mom brought a variety of crafts for the kids to do, the favorite being bandanas that they could fabric paint, and then wear like gangsters for the rest of the day. She bought an apron for them to paint for me. As soon as I put it on, every time a child would come up to me they would have to point to their name and tell me that it was theirs.
I couldn't have planned or built a better day. I'm very aware of the connection between how magical it was and how little control I exerted. The kids created memories that I know they'll retrieve with happy nostalgia in later years. They thought - no they knew - the entire day was about them and their pleasure. And because I did, too, the pleasure of it sits lightly in my heart. A perfect last Valentine's Day.
picture from Flickr