An Old Timer's Fancy Valentine

By Norris Chambers
    It wasn’t a holiday that our school observed, but each classroom celebrated Valentine’s Day in some way. Usually the last period of the day was set aside for the celebration and was the proper time for the students to exchange valentines with each other and present a nice one to the teacher. Clifton and I usually bought a cheap package of mushy sounding cards and gave them to the ones we liked best in the room. We picked what we thought was the nicest one in the package and gave it to the teacher.
    After all the exchanging was completed the teacher held up her valentines, one by one, and told who gave each one to her.
    On such a Valentine’s Day in the late twenties Clifton wanted to give our teacher a very nice valentine. Clifton, unfortunately, was what some folks refer to as “financially embarrassed” and would be unable to purchase anything nicer than the cheapest assortment. The box that the cards came in was beautiful, but the contents looked as cheap as the price.
    It was my idea to make a valentine. We had attempted to make about everything else, why not a valentine. Clifton was a little reluctant to undertake the project but after a little discussion he agreed to give it a try. I knew it wouldn’t be easy since we had never thought of ourselves as being artistic.
    We needed a large card or folder to begin and we quickly picked the pretty lid of the cardboard box the cheap valentines were in. The top line of writing read: “To My Best Valentine”. Clifton marked it out with “A red X” and added the word “Teacher” above it. Since the box top was thick cardboard we didn’t think a fold would be practical, so we decided to decorate the box top and adorn it with Christmas wrapping paper. The thought suddenly occurred to me that some real greenery from the garden and flower beds would add originality and beauty. Clifton agreed and we began our search for small leaves, berries, pods and similar green items. We finished our search with plenty of material and got busy with our glue and Clifton’s red pencil! Clifton marked out the flashy language and added his own little messages. With the glue and greenery we covered the card, causing his messages to stand out. There was a strange beauty about it in spite of Clifton’s crude writing. The small leaves, pods, vines and a grass leaf here and there completed the artistic background!
    Some of the colored Christmas wrapping provided a pretty cover sheet and a nice back for the card. We had to admit that we had done a superb job and I offered to bet Clifton that he had the most original valentine of the season. A small simple tag attached with a half drop of glue and proclaiming: “To Teacher – From Clifton” finished the project and we were ready for the valentine show-time in a couple of days.    
    When the big day arrived Clifton came into the room a little earlier than usual carrying a cardboard box. He laid it carefully on his desk and sat down to wait for the opening bell. I told him again not to worry and that his handcrafted valentine was actually a masterpiece that would surely be accepted as such by the teacher. He managed a weak grin and muttered, “I hope so.”
    Eventually the day moved on to valentine show time and the students began getting their valentines ready for distribution and the following display. Clifton carefully removed his creation from the box and laid the pretty card on the desk, still covered with the colorful Christmas wrapping paper. The valentines were stacked on the teacher’s desk awaiting the distribution by the teacher. Since Clifton’s card was so much larger than the others it was laid on the desk beside the stack.
    Before beginning the distribution she picked up Clifton’s masterpiece and said she would open it first and see what goodies it contained. When she removed the protective cover and saw the beautiful display she muttered “Oh, my – I want everyone to pass by the desk and see this beautiful creation! It’s just unbelievable!” Clifton was smiling like a hog in a tater patch.
    Some of the students laughed and some just took a second look. Some of the live greenery we used must have contained a pod of insect eggs because the whole face of the card was covered with little worm-like creatures crawling over, around and through the vegetation. Clifton was embarrassed because he thought the teacher might think it was intentional. He felt better and resumed his smiling when the teacher kept saying how nice it was! When I whispered to Clifton that I thought his wormy card was funny he quit grinning and said “No way!”