I hold a warm and tender memory of a Valentine’s Day long ago,
before those awkward years when my body seemed to shoot up way too high and lanky and sooner than my schoolmates grew into theirs,
and my dark hair too stringy and my soft voice too weak
and a fog rolled in and shadowed some years in lie.
I was seven then, and jazzed with heady delight as I scrambled down
the hill to the creek with my heart-covered shoebox hugged in close,
feeling the delicious shuffle of valentines and even some happy rattle
that I hoped would be candy tucked inside
a particularly generous envelope.
I’d worked hard containing my excitement ever since morning
when we’d been released from routine to deliver our valentines
to the pink and red boxes with names printed over the slits
we’d carved to receive the offerings dropped inside.
Then, we’d been give an rubber band to secure the contents ,
safe and hidden, until we got home and could finally open them.
It was the sweetest torture I’d ever known.
Even thought we’d been instructed to bring a valentine for each child on the list sent home,
and I’d spent hours at the kitchen table carefully choosing just the right one
and lovingly writing the names,
my tongue pressed between my teeth as I slowly penciled my affection
for each kid I watched with wonder each day at school,
I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d get more than a hand full.
I didn’t feel pretty, didn’t dress like the popular girls
and was fairly terrible at catching pop flies in kickball.
I didn’t expect to get anything from any of the boys
and maybe not much more, besides.
But here was a whole box full of little white envelopes with my own name printed on the fronts.
I gingerly opened and studied each card, some signed, some a mystery,
but one from each kid in my class and even from pretty Mrs. Clark
with her smooth, silky, not-at-all- stringy hair.
It felt like a box full of miracle and my heart could barely
This feeling was an intense kind of goodness.
I was being affirmed,
noticed in a way that let me feel it slowly
and without the painful stares and glaring demand to process it all quickly
in the smooth way that I lacked.
It was one of the most powerful things I’d ever experienced,
feeling both safe and known.
It wasn’t, of course, a safe or loving community at all.
Because kids will be kids
and my idealism was, well, idealism.
But seeds were dropped deep into that tender girlheart of mine
that have grown into powerful longing for community and tribe
and loving support.
It helped stir a passion for tending the gardens in my life,
for the beauty of whispering life-giving truth
over another being.
I’m so grateful I get that here, with you, dear reader and friend,
and I thank you for the honor
of getting to speak into your life from time to time.
Maybe these days the words sound trite,
but it’s honest and true and ever so worth writing down.
I love you.
“I don’t want something special.
I want something beautifully plain.”