a little love story…

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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.

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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
contain itself.

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 do:)

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“I don’t want something special.
I want something beautifully plain.”
-Anne Lamott

Comments

  1. Such sweet memories of deeply being affirmed by your classmates sure is a treasure that outlasted the little red paper hearts. Such a sweet post Jennifer.
    HAPPY VALENTINE.
    Love,
    JB

  2. How very beautiful. And all praise to Mrs Clark (and all in her tribe). Valentines Day was a delight for the in crowd, and a torture for the rest of us here. Reminded, again, that we didn’t fit in and that our noses were too big and our characters squinted.
    Hugs and love.

  3. Sweet Jennifer, you made me cry!!! What a beautiful post from the little girl memories you hold. Precious and so well explained are your feelings from that time. I felt every moment with you as you talked about your valentine box and school and classmates, your heart and your desire to pour into others now that you’ve grown up. You do that pouring into others sooooo well too! Thank Y♥U.

    Sad to say, that many of those memories as a little girl, for me, are hard to uncover yet today. But when you share your memories Jennifer, it seems to uncover a corner of some of mine too. I don’t push trying to tear the cover off of what I don’t remember…because I figure there is a reason they were buried so that I could go on growing in a healthier way without them. I also figure, they will arise when needed as my heart and soul are ready to let them expose themselves. Glad to say though that after age 11-12, my home life turned around for the better when some angels, called my grandparents took us in to there home, which was like a castle to me and my heart felt so safe and grateful. Sorry to go on and on Jennifer. Your post just got to me today.

    I love you too my friend,
    Lee Ann

  4. I am so grateful for those seeds that were dropped into your heart because of the beautiful blooms they became, creating the one and only unique YOU, who take what you’re given and give it back threefold with beautiful ribbons and glitter and love. Thank you for reminding me of that childhood pleasure of so many tiny envelopes inside of a pink and white shoebox.

  5. Ah – being included, acknowledged, accepted, loved – so vital to that awkward little girl. This is really lovely, Jennifer, and I understand the little girl you were. I was the very shy child in a corner who craved the same things. Special moments like yours with your shoebox full of cards are what allowed us to break free of that childhood prison of insecurity. Now you offer light and love and encouragement to others, including me, and I must say, I love you too. xo

  6. i’m just discovering your world, i found you via Rachel Awe’s blog..
    love the story + there is so much poetry in your photos…. so very beautiful:)
    x sandra

  7. Jennifer- such a sweet story and exactly what Valentines Day memories should be filled with. Thanks for sharing that lovely poem and the photos too!

  8. This is the perfect Valentine memory — and you capture what this day should do — affirm love in all its forms — friendship, respected elder and now that’s we’re grown up, romantic love. It affirms our being. As I was reading this, I thought about my friend Mike who died last week. His greatest gift to all of us was affirming our value — you are so creative! You are so pretty! You are so whatever… “Isn’t he (or she) the best ___ ever?” And for a minute, you believed it yourself, even with big hips or bad hair… he gave a gift every time he saw someone. And that is the soul of Valentine’s day — that gift. You are so very, very perceptive. Hugs to you this season. And Happy Valentine’s Day.

  9. Ah, I have similar memories. Lovely post! And I love you too.

  10. This is so lovely, Jennifer! Yes, we all want to feel “safe and known”. Within ourselves and through others. When my sister called for my birthday last week, she said, “I want you to know that I’m happy you’re here.” What a gift. You felt that others were happy you were alive and with them. May you experience that feeling again and again, through this blog and elsewhere. Love is really all that matters. ♥

  11. Dear sweet jennifer,

    your words speak softly into those spaces where my heart remembers such gentle, simple days and ways reminding me there is always room for Love.

    Beautiful!

  12. You just made the memories come flowing in! Brilliant!

  13. Boy did you bring back the memories!! Of both myself as a child and when my two girls got to experience the Valentine’s card exchange at school. I remember how excited I was too to receive all the goodies in my extravagantly handmade Valentines shoebox! 🙂

  14. Oh, Jennifer! You took me back to my childhood, on a good day! I will be extra sensitive toy little students on Friday too. So sweet. Thank you for sharing your stories…

  15. I am so thankful that you shared those precious memories with us…Your words touched my heart and once again I am reminded of what a gift you to are to all of us….You have jarred my own memories of those valentine exchanges as a child and the excitement of seeing those cards with my name on them….

  16. Jennifer, how I love your childhood memory! I imagine the valentines you gave out were the best in the class. Thanks for sharing the beautiful flowers– that first pair took my breath away!

  17. One of my most vivid memories is of climbing high in a tree and yelling out to the world that being seven years old was the very, very best most perfect age to be! I connect with you in so many ways, being the shy one, wanting, then and still, to find my place, my tribe. I love our brave girl hearts and would for sure put a sweet valentine in your box.
    xo

  18. I so identify with those feelings you had.
    Sometimes I look at pictures of that sweet girl and wonder why I felt unpretty and a little different. It’s a mystery some of us endure.
    I’m blossoming now and never gave up on the magic. It’s a true gift. You too.
    Sending love your way beautiful friend.
    K

  19. So warm and lovely. It took me back. Beautiful!

  20. these are beautiful blooms you have captured here

  21. Dearest friend Jennifer♡
    Simply splendid post……
    I thank you for the honor of you speaking into my life from time to time
    for stirring passions in me
    for meeting me in the gardens in yours and my life
    for allways the beauty
    and for whispering life-giving truth
    I ♡LOVE you, I truly do♡

  22. Your special story evoked my own memories as I wore glasses was small and not popular at all in school….your love for your readers is special dear friend and we love you too!!

  23. Your special story evoked my own memories as I wore glasses was small and not popular at all in school….your love for your readers is special dear friend and we love you too!!

  24. You paint the most loving word pictures. I hope your day was especially blessed.

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