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I was standing in the checkout line at a store. In front of me was a woman and her teenage son. They were having a normal conversation that one would have between a mother and her teenager. Then out of the blue her son asked “When is Valentine’s Day?”. She answered with “it’s on February 14th. I believe that’s next next Tuesday. Why do you ask?” He blushed and shrugged his shoulders. She then asked “Do you want to get something for your friend?” Now he was beet red and said “maybe”. She asked him to go get something, adding that she would buy it for him. He was off in a flash and back as quickly. It was obvious he knew exactly what he wanted, a little white stuffed bear holding a small box of candy with the message “Be My Valentine”.
This minor innocuous exchange brought a memory back to me.
Here, is my story.
I was just six and in a new school. The new school was very different from the one I had come from. Being very shy and struggling (unknowingly) with dyslexia I was having trouble making friends and feeling like I belonged.
Following the Christmas holiday the next big fun thing for a kid is Valentine’s Day. It was a few weeks before February 14th. The teacher had asked each of us to bring a shoebox or any box about the same size to make our individual Valentine’s boxes. We learned how to cover our boxes with different colored paper and make heart shapes out of folded paper. We also worked on special Valentine’s Day cards for our parents made with our hearts shapes and paper dollies. It was great fun.
A boy by the name of Jimmy sat next to me in class. We had struck up a conversation while we were making our valentine boxes and cards. We talked about all the things kids talk about at that age. We even sat together at lunch and had a great time. It felt good to have another kid to talk to and be my friend. I was really excited. I finally had made a friend. One I could spend time with and not feel so clumsy around.
Later on that day, Jimmy passed me a folded note. When I open and read the note I turned beet red. The note was simple and to the point. It was on a small piece of white paper with a red heart in the center. On the heart he had written “I Love You” surrounded by ”Be My Valentine” signed “JIMMY” with two small hearts bookending his name. I could feel my cheeks warming up. Being six I wasn’t sure what to do with that. I was a bit confused and embarrassed. To me the word LOVE was for big people, not kids. I quickly folded the note and stuffed it in my desk. I couldn’t look at Jimmy. The bell rang, signaling that it was time to go home. I rushed out, got on the bus, never acknowledging Jimmy. I know I must have hurt his feeling.
Valentine’s day was a few days later. I had ignored Jimmy most of that time. He had tried many times to have a conversation with me but to no avail. Everyone in the classroom had put those silly fun paper valentine cards in each of our classmates valentines boxes, that was the rule. It had come time to open our valentine boxes and read all our cards from our classmates. My Mom along with other Mom’s had brought cupcakes and cool-aide to help celebrate the occasion.
I had put a Valentine in Jimmy’s box as he had in mine but his was different. It was bigger, the kind of card my dad would get for my mom. I know he must have been watching me as I cautiously open the card. It was a beautiful card. The note on the inside said. “I am sorry if I hurt your feelings. I just want to be your friend. Your Friend, JIMMY”. I was so relieved that I gave him a hug and told him I wanted to be his friend too. We were fast friends for the rest of the year. That summer my family and I moved to another state where my father had gotten a really good teaching job. I have always wondered what happened to Jimmy. I will always be grateful for his friendship at a time when I needed it the most.
The mother and son were checking out and collecting their bags to leave. The mother turned to her son and smiled, gave him the bag with the bear inside and said “I know she will really like this”. Her son smiled back and said “Thanks mom, I really like this girl”. As I watched them move on, I had a warm feeling regarding their shared experience and of mine.
In closing when we are “Finding Our Way” in life, it’s good to remember that friendship is an expression of love and should never be ignored, shunned or misunderstood (as I had at six) no matter what our age.
What memories do you have about a friendship found and lost? Have you had something similar happen to you? I would love to hear your story.