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My unfunny Valentine – a lesson in forgiveness

by Margaret Haylock Capon

I obtained my early education at Mary Street Public School, an impressive red brick building that once stood at the site of the Mary Street parking lot. One of the highlights of each school year was Valentine’s Day, a magical, secret-filled time when love was in the air.

As this special day drew near, my mother would take me to Stedman’s to choose a book of Valentine’s Day cards. Once I had made my selection, I would hurry home to cut out each card then painstakingly pen a classmate’s name on it. These simple greetings which usually featured images of children of the Dick and Jane era may have been crafted of thin, cheap, paper but they carried a heavy message. It was through them that we shyly told those we secretly admired that we had a not-so-secret crush on them.

Valentine’s Day in Mrs. Mabel Todd’s Grade 4 classroom was a special occasion, indeed. After coming to class, each of us dropped our Valentines into a large box on which sat on her desk. Then, we returned to our seats, to eagerly await our teacher’s announcement that they would be delivered.

When the big moment came, Mrs. Todd reached into the box, removed the Valentines, one at a time, and called out the addressees’ names. As our names were called, we rose from our seats and proudly walked to the front of the room to claim our cards. When all of the Valentines had been given out, our postmistress asked each student to count the number he or she had received. We were then called upon to inform the class of our totals. While our teacher may have been well-intentioned, this thoughtless practice spoiled the day for those who had not received many cards. Those with the most Valentines proudly stood to acknowledge their popularity, while others who had been overlooked no doubt felt hurt and embarrassed by their classmates’ failure to remember them.

One Valentine’s Day, my best friend Margo and I each received a beautiful, gold foil heart in the mail. When we opened them, there was no signature, just a question mark that had been drawn in red ink. Who was our secret admirer? We pondered this mystery for days, until Margo finally solved it. She learned that our Valentines had been sent by a family friend named Iola Daubney, who worked in the children’s room at Picton Public Library. I kept my card for many years, for it was my first Valentine to arrive by mail and it made me feel very grown up.

As my childhood friends and I grew older, Valentine’s Day became a non-event in the classroom. It was not until we reached our teens that it once again assumed significance. As teenagers we attached renewed importance to this occasion and crossed our fingers that our boyfriends would remember us on this special day.

The most memorable Valentine’s Day present that I ever received came to me in an unusual way. My school days were far behind me, when I encountered an individual, in the workplace, who was extremely rude to me without cause, during a sad time in my life. My father had passed away only a few days earlier and I resented this man’s unkind behaviour. Annoyed by his complete lack of sensitivity, I decided to get even. With Valentine’s Day only a few days off, I purchased an insulting card, then on it penned the lines: Roses are red, Violets are blue, Only a dog would pant for you.”  I sent it off, unsigned, hopeful that its recipient would momentarily experience the hurt that I had felt when he was so rude to me.

When Valentine’s Day arrived, a local florist delivered a beautiful bouquet of cut flowers to my door. The card was signed by the man who had been so unkind to me only a few days earlier. He had immediately guessed the identity of the individual who had sent him such an unflattering card and had decided to turn the other cheek. After receiving the flowers, I felt guilty about sending the decidedly unfunny Valentine. I realized that I had just been given a lesson in forgiveness, one that would remain with me for the rest of my life.

Filed Under: Margaret Haylock-Capon

About the Author: Maggie Haylock is a freelance writer and former newspaper reporter who has co-authored several books with her husband, Alan Capon.

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  1. Hi Margaret: I liked your Blog entry and would like to reprint an excerpt from it on our FaceBook Page. Please let me know if this is okay and also what would you like the attribution to read if so?


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