The little Valentine
By Bill Shepard
(The story “The little Valentine” that appeared in this column last year at Valentine’s Day was so warmly received, some suggested I do it again this year. There isn’t much to add except that it is a year older.
The beautiful memories that it holds grow more precious with the passing of time. I have taken the little Valentine from its resting place and placed it by the picture of the one to whom it was first given. On this Valentine’s Day, the two will have been together 81 years! Thanks for all the memories! Now, the story as it appeared here last Valentine’s Day … )
Happy birthday to you! This is your 81st birthday, little Valentine!
On this Valentine’s Day, we will celebrate your 81st birthdate. I will take you from your resting place, where you have been resting for all the years since you were first brought into existence, fourscore years ago. I remember well that Valentine’s Day, a long, long time ago.
The year was 1938. Can anyone imagine that you are that old? That you have been kept alive through so many years. Well, the secret is that you belonged to an angel for all of those years and angels know how to keep things forever, especially things they love.
I remember the very day you were born, or should I say, “came into being.” Paper Valentines are not born, but they can have long lives. At least, you surely have.
I remember that day when I visited the McClellan Dime Store on the town square in the little mill town of Darlington.
I frequented the store quite often and especially when I was looking for a gift for someone. This time I was looking for a Valentine that I could purchase for a small amount.
I found exactly what I was looking for. I bought a small package of Valentines for a dime. Inside the package, there were a dozen or more small Valentines. I planned to give one to the new preacher’s daughter who had just recently moved to our town and near to the village where I lived.
Of course, I would have a problem giving it to her, as we never got to be that close to each other.
I would see her at Sunday school, and occasionally, we might be in the same group of children, as we walked to school.
But we were never close to each other.
I always felt that she was forbidden to talk with a boy, and there was always a sister along to report if she did. I knew a lot of the older folk who attended the little church where my angel went, so I knew I would get the Valentine to my secret sweetheart. She was my sweetheart whether she knew it or not.
My next problem was that I did not know how to spell her name!
I put the little Valentine in the small envelope and on the outside I wrote, “Give to the preacher’s daughter.”
The words are still on the envelope; the pencil markings are faded a little but legible, just as they were written 81 years ago.
I gave the little Valentine to one of the ladies who went to the church and asked that she give it to the preacher’s daughter.
I presumed that she did, but I was never certain.
Imagine my surprise, years later, when the preacher’s daughter and I were married that my beautiful angel showed me the little Valentine that she had kept through the long years since she was a 13-year-old girl and I had been a 15-year-old boy!
Each of the following years, on Valentine’s Day, my angel would receive that same little Valentine, and I would write a love note to accompany it. It would then be placed back into her hope chest to await another whole year when Valentine’s Day would come again. This year, it will be different!
I will take the Valentine from its resting place in my angel’s hope chest, whisper a love note to it and then place it back to await another Valentine’s Day. This Valentine’s Day, my angel is in heaven; she passed away just two days after her 93rd birthday. The little Valentine had been in her possession for nearly 80 years!
I will take the Valentine from its resting place, kiss it gently, shed a tear or two, then place it back until the next time.
She was 13, my blue-eyed queen,
When she came to our town,
She had a little pug nose, and chubby little toes,
And her hair was a chestnut brown.
She was a bashful little thing, my blue-eyed queen,
And I’m sure it was love at first sight,
And to change her name became my game,
And I worked at it with all my might.
She became my queen, that sweet little thing,
And I crowned her the queen of my heart,
She reigns on the throne of our humble little home,
And nothing can cause us to part.
We’ve been side by side through life’s short ride,
We’ve traveled through good times and bad,
She has the wisdom of the gods, and I’ll give you the odds,
That without her, my life would be sad.