The Little Valentine
By Bill Shepard
Happy Birthday to you! This is your 80th birthday, little Valentine!
On this Valentine’s Day, 2018, we will celebrate your 80th birth date. 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 which was located on the town square in the little Mill town of Darlington, SC. 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 that 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 on Sundays, 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 that 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 80 years ago. I gave the little valentine to one of the ladies that went to the church and ask 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 thirteen-year-old girl and I had been a fifteen-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 hopechest to await another whole year when Valentine’s Day’s would come again. This year, it will be different!
I will take the little valentine from its resting place in 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 93’d 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 thirteen, my blue-eyed queen,
When she carne 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.
To my beloved wife, who furnishes the inspiration
for all that I do.
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. He is the author of “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised”. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week. His mailing address for cards and letters is: Bill Shepard 324 Sunny Lane, Piedmont, S.C. 29673.