"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Best (and Last) Valentine's Day

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


Deb Cushman said...

I'm sure your students will have lots of great memories from their third grade experience.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Slightly teary now. *sniff* You've helped many a flower bloom and spread love petals. :)

Amber said...

So cool. and very cool how that mom came through... Maybe she is just a little 'scattered' (like, um, me. lol) because realllly she is a secret genius! lol


Kathryn Magendie said...

*smiling* - This is wonderful to read this morning...thank you.

I remember when I was in elementary school, before they days they asked parents to bring everyone valentines, I made out my valentines and there was one valentine card I ADORED - so I kept it - it showed a little blue bird coming out of an envelope and I just loved it, so I didn't give it away.

Well, that day, everyone got their boxes of valentines - except....there was one little girl crying her eyes out - not one dang valentine! What I did next, I am so proud of that little girl I was at that moment - I took that little bird valentine and gave it to her - my fave one that I cherished!

It was one of my prouder moments and I'm glad I remember I did that ... I always remember that on Val's day *smiling*

I wonder where that girl (woman) is now? I hope she has a wonderful happy life!

Carrie Wilson Link said...

The perfect "last." Love how the less you "planned," the more you enjoyed. Hmmmm... feeling a big metaphor coming on in terms of your future!

contemporary themes said...

I love this! How Sweet!

We don't get this with seniors. My kids kept calling Valentine's Day, "Singles Awareness Day!" Could it be that they are cynical by 18? Oh my!

Glad the day was a hit!

Love you.

I posted again. Trying to find my way!

Mark Lyons said...

I love the fact that God has given you a final year that is filled with good...sometimes, great memories. Your students will always remember their third grade teacher, Mrs. Shucka...and how much she loved them and taught them (even some things not on the WASL).

Know that you will continue to touch lives through your next career...as a writer.

Love you


Jerri said...

Every time you write about your class, I am reminded of the legacy of exceptional teachers.

Through your work, you have writ your name high across the sky, my friend. No matter what else you write or publish--and you will--that legacy will endure, through generations even.

I am so proud of you. So very, very proud.

Ms Sparky said...

I don't know how you do it everyday. Today is Keelen's 6th birthday. I am no soccer grandma!! I have no problem going toe to toe with the DoD or corporate corruption but the thought of taking 30 cupcakes into a room full of kindergartners had me all twisted up. Why? Who knows. I called my friend and told her to "Cover me...I'm goin' in!" Kudos to you and those like you who choose to be with our kids everyday.

kario said...

Reaping what you've sown, my dear. What more perfect day than Valentine's to receive the blessings of the love you've brought to their lives.