Last night, as I rummaged around in a box of extra cards from Christmases past, I came across a story. I had stored a Valentine’s Day card from my first grade boyfriend in the box until I had time to return it to the scrapbook it came from.
Even though first grade was a long time ago, receiving the card left a lasting impression on me. It wasn’t one of those small mass-produced valentines that every grade-schooler gives out. This one (pictured) was at least six inches tall and it was covered with GLITTER. It said “With Sunny Thoughts of You” on the front, and on the back, my “boyfriend” had written his name (Chris) large and outlined in pencil.
Given that I was such a flirty kindergartener (see “Rockin’ the First Day of Kindergarten”), it may not surprise you that I had my first boyfriend by first grade in Piedmont Elementary School. Our teacher, Miss Bestul, had a rule that if we were done with our work, we could play between assignments.
Chris had short brown hair, full lips, and a ready smile. We must have enjoyed playing together because we would rush to complete our work so we could drive the classroom’s large wooden trucks in the aisles between the other students’ desks.
These “play dates” eventually led to our first kiss in the privacy of the classroom’s coat room. Not long afterwards, romantic tragedy struck. One day, Chris was not in school; nor the next; nor the next. When I asked someone where he was, they said he moved.
He was never coming back.
We didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye.
Although life went on, I kept his impressive Valentine.
Twenty-five years passed. I had graduated from college and was working in an old sandstone building that used to be a college dorm. The organization I worked for shipped a lot of packages, so we kept UPS busy. The same brown-uniformed UPS Man was assigned to our building. I saw him at least once a week. Almost every time I saw him, something would “ping” in my head. He looked familiar.
I never had time to dwell on it until one day, after months of those nagging feelings, the “ping” became more like a “bong.”
The next time I saw the UPS Man, I asked him if he had ever attended Piedmont Elementary. He said yes.
“Who was your first grade teacher?” I asked.
It was Chris, my long-lost first-grade boyfriend! I introduced myself and asked him if he remembered me. He thought he sort of did remember. I told him about the Valentine – how much I enjoyed it and how sad I was after he moved away. We caught up on life since first grade – we both had families and full lives – and then it was time for him to go pick up another package.
I remembered I still had the Valentine in my grade-school scrapbook, so I dug it out and brought it to work to show Chris the next time I saw him. He looked in wonderment at his signature on the back of the card, tracing the letters with his fingers. I don’t doubt he was freaked out to see a paper relic from so long ago, and by whatever emotions had encouraged me to keep it for so long. We talked some more, and then his duty called.
After that, when we would see each other and say, “Hi,” it was with a new recognition, tinged with a bit of first-grade wistfulness.
A few years later, I took a different job, so I was the one who left him this time. But I’ve still got his Valentine.
It’s time now to put it back in the scrap book.