Valentine’s Day — In Retrospect

[Or … My First True ‘Like’]

by Jeff Salter

            I can only assume I had heard of it previously, but I didn’t sense the true importance of Valentine’s Day until fifth grade when my heart was first captured by Robbie B.  [More about her in a moment.]

            Around the perimeter of that classroom, each student’s small paper sack was tacked (?) to the rim of the chalk tray which bordered the black-board [yeah, that was before chalkboards were green].  The sacks must have been provided, because all were the same size and color.  Presumably, we had used previous class time to decorate and write our names on them.

            On the school day nearest Feb. 14, the teacher allowed time (during the last period) for us to scurry around the room and distribute our out-going valentines into the sacks of those kids we liked enough to do so.  Yeah, that was before you were required to have one for every student — so some very popular kids got LOTS of valentines and a few kids got only a few.  [If there was any stigma, it was fairly private because we didn’t even get to hold those bags until we were actually leaving school that day.  In any case:  nothing for parent to file lawsuits about.]

            In that time, it was okay to give a valentine to a buddy (boy) and all it meant was that he probably interacted in the same games as you did at recess.  So I had a few valentines for a few buddies.

            Well, of course, it was quite common to give valentines to the girls you were friendly with.  I distributed a bunch of those cards because there were several friendly girls I knew and liked.  These were the girls I could speak to.  [I’ll come back to that.]

            But there was only one girl who I really LIKED.  Yeah, the ‘L’ word of fifth grade.  I was smitten.  To Robbie B., I gave the most elaborate valentine I could locate (and afford).  Alas, she had stolen not only my heart … but my tongue.  Yep, I was incapable of speaking directly to Robbie … because she was THE ONE.  I know, it sounds odd these days — when kids that age have cell phones / Facebook / e-mail and spend hours posting, texting, or twittering.  But I could not ‘talk’ to Robbie at all.  I could ‘show off’ near her … and often did.  I could rhapsodize about her to my buddies (and did).  I could even speak to Robbie’s friends about her (and I did).  So everybody knew I LIKED Robbie … including Robbie.

            Ah, but I had a rival for Robbie’s affection — and he was a buddy.  Not a ‘best’ buddy, but one who played the same games and ‘hung out’ with the same guys I did.  He and I never spoke about Robbie.  I guess it was the ‘code’ of school kid rivals that Robbie’s selected suitor should be her choice … and my rival and I should stoically continue to be buddies no matter what.  But my buddy-rival had a huge edge over me:  he WAS able to speak to Robbie.

            You’re probably wondering whether Robbie returned my affections.  Well, that was difficult to know.  Of course, I received data from other girls (those several with whom I was perfectly capable of speech) and their reports varied.  [Sometimes they initiated the status and sometimes I possibly asked.]  I no longer recall any of those reports with any specificity, but my firm notion at that time was that Robbie was agreeable to my attentions – and to my gifts (I left them on her doorstep and ran) – but she was likely puzzled by my inability to interact.

            Except at parties.  Yeah, there were parties in those days, presumably organized by parents.  Some were during the Carnival season and were known as King Cake parties.  Others were just parties with music, dancing, limbo contests (yeah, I know) … and kissing.  Yep.  There were two basic kissing games: something complicated involving shoes (which I don’t recall very well) and the more popular activity with very simple rules called ‘spin the bottle.’  I LOVED spinning the bottle and I was pretty durn good at getting it to point directly at Robbie.  [Of course, I didn’t mind kissing three or four other girls for every single – though brief – caress of Robbie’s lips.]

            I don’t recall whether I was as mystified … then as now.  But how come I could kiss Robbie – when the bottle was adroitly ‘spun’ – with such ease … but could not bring myself to SPEAK with her?  I’m sure it drove Robbie crazy throughout fifth grade … and sixth, and seventh, and eighth.  I could tell you about our first ‘official’ date (eighth grade prom), but that would take another entire column … plus I barely said a dozen words to her during that entire evening.  And we only danced the slow dances.  [Things would have gone better if I’d brought a bottle to spin.]

            My first valentine and first true ‘like’ — poor Robbie.

Jeff

[The Thursday Hound]

Next week, I have a special Guest Fox scheduled!

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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33 Responses to Valentine’s Day — In Retrospect

  1. tonya kappes says:

    Chalk boards? What’s that?? Smart boards!! And people thought Kentucky bred fast horses…we also bred smart kids:)
    Great story, but I have to question how you got your wife???? I bet that took over ten years!!! Come on, Jeff! You’re a romance writer~how did you woo that fantastic wife of yours?

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks, Tonya. Looks like you’re feeling better today.
      I was aware of the girl who would later become my wife because we went to the same church, but we didn’t attend the same school until many grades later. So I didn’t ‘notice’ her until years later. But, hey, it wouldn’t take long to explain the wooing: She chased me until I let her catch me. Ha. Just kidding.
      We’ll leave that topic for another day.
      The oddest thing about this first ‘true like’ of mine was: after pursuing her through 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades — but scarcely speaking a word — I have no recollection of Robbie at all from 9th grade and beyond.
      Hmm. Could be a good mystery story.
      Thanks for being here, Tonya, and remember — YOU’re the guest fox here next Thur.!

      Like

  2. I love this story- so sweet and lovely- Fifth grade “like” was just so full of angst, wasn’t it. “Do you like me or not- check yes or no.” Remember those notes?

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      I don’t remember the notes as much as the other girls getting me into a huddle and pumping me for info. I have no recollection of what I revealed in those debriefings, but I’m sure I avowed ‘everlasting LIKE’.

      Like

  3. danicaavet says:

    This story made me grin and remember those Valentine’s when I was in grade school. It was always a time for great anticipation and dread. I was a tomboy, so hung out with all the boys I had crushes on. *sigh* To be a kid again when being liked by your crush was the most important thing in the world! LOL Great, great post, Jeff!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks, Danica. You probably remember King Cake parties as well.
      I do recall another time I was able to ‘speak’ to Robbie in 5th grade: at the Christmas ‘gift exchange’ I think everyone drew a number and all the gifts were numbered. I saw that Robbie got a gift of a book, which she clearly didn’t want. [It was Pinoccio]. So I gallantly offered her my gift (don’t recall what, but obviously she’d like it better than a book) in exchange for the one she didn’t want.
      She agreed … and (in my 5th grade wise perception) I concluded she was eternally grateful that I rescued her in that manner. Ha.
      I kept that book for many years.

      Like

  4. Madeline Carbon says:

    Amazing that I can truly picture your shyness with Robbie B. It suits who you are, Bro, a silent but appreciative admirer of the opposite sex.

    My Mother was a teacher at the Catholic school I attended and I was the “goody two shoes” of the class, always doing well with grades and totally obedient to every rule. I remember being afraid for the boys who would cut up when the teacher left the room, knowing they were aiming for a lot of trouble.

    I had a grade-school-duration crush on Bill D. He was the class clown and as years went by they would seat him in front of me, thinking I wouldn’t talk to him. But we occassionally whispered when I had the nerve.

    Valentine Day was coming and even though I craved to give him a Valentine, I cringed at the thought of being seen in the act of giving. So I grabbed an opportunity BEFORE we were supposed to be passing out our cards, passed it to him and got caught by the teacher right behind me. He jumped up and yelled, “Well, you finally caught her!” Mortified in the spotlight!!!

    As I lost my shyness in later grades, Bill and I could easily talk and as we got older we would laugh about that Valentine. He felt so bad that he had embarrassed me. He began dating one of our classmates and they are married today.

    Bro, I actually went to an almost X rated king cake party. Somehow the mother was not around when we played spin the bottle and the boys made a new rule that you had to take the girl in the next room for kissing! This was in the mid 50’s and I was in 6th grade and the party and its events were the talk of the school the whole next week. As a result, brand new “king cake party rules” were chiseled into stone!

    Thank you for bringing me back to these memories again, Jeff.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Glad you stopped in today, Sis.
      Wish I had known you back then … would’ve been a hoot.
      I quiver to imagine the possibilities if spinning the bottle had resulted in trips to “the other room”. I suspect the entire social structure of small-town Covington would have gone to ruin! Ha.
      Though, seriously, such a breach in the ‘rules’ could have had some unfortunate consequences.

      Like

  5. Laurie Ryan says:

    You are SO good at setting the stage. I was “IN” that classroom. And yes, I grew up with blackboards. 🙂 I angsted over the valentine’s day cards, being one of the not as popular girls. Would I get one or two or, be still my heart, even three?
    Great post, Jeff! Thanks.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Laurie, thanks for the kind words.

      I don’t have a very good sense of where I ‘ranked’ in that SO-important scale of popularity. It felt like the large ‘middle-clump’ at the time; in retrospect, I think that was probably correct. There’s comfort to be had in the middle clump … even if one never reaches the ‘golden’ status of popularity. LOL.
      And here, some five decades later, all of us still living are pretty much the same.

      Like

  6. Jenn! says:

    How sweet, Jeff! And too funny!
    My first real crush came in sixth grade. His name was Bleau (pronounced Blue). He was in my orchestra class and I was bonkos for him. He was the essence of cool with his concert t-shirts, a shaggy black hair. Unlike you, I DID have the ability to speak. I was quite outgoing and flirted unmercifully (much to his delight). Unfortunately, he moved. Grrr…. Relinquished love. LOL!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      But was Bleau able to speak to you?
      I knew lots of guys who seemed to have the gift of gab — which I so envied — with their true ‘like’ girl. But not me.
      It would be easier to understand if I had been that tongue-tied around the other girls … but I wasn’t. Just around Robbie.

      Jenn, I bet you were ‘something else’ back thern. I’d like to be a fly on the wall (albeit briefly) as you flirted unmercifully with Bleau.

      Like

      • Jenn! says:

        You know, now that you mention it, Bleau didn’t do a lot of talking. Just smirking. Hmm….

        You could be a fly on the wall today, Jeff. I’m not that much different than I was back then. No, that’s not true. I was a helluva lot more reckless. Oh the stories I could tell. 😉

        Like

  7. Great post, Jeff! Limbo contests?!? Really? I’d pay to see a limbo contest at the national convention. Just sayin.

    My first love in the 4th grade was named Mike and we played kickball. He didn’t speak much, but I did get a ‘hello’ once in awhile. 🙂

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Rebecca, thanks for stopping by.
      Yeah, the limbo was ‘new’ back then, if you can imagine. I used to be pretty limber but don’t think I ever won the contest. I found it more interesting watching the girls compete anyway. Ha.
      So, this Mike guy in 4th grade — he was also tongue-tied around his ‘like’ ? Hmm.
      Kickball is a good ice-breaker, though.
      The only sports-related thing I ever did with Robbie was bouncing on a large trampoline at her house, with other kids, at one of her birthday parties. Quite innocent, I assure you.

      Like

  8. Daisy Harris says:

    Aw! Too cute.

    I went to school in the era where you needed to bring one for everyone. So I was stuck doing handwriting analysis to determine if the object of my affection liked me.

    Oddly enough, my crush was named Robbie as well. He was the only boy in the class taller than me. So of course, by eighth grade he was dating the shortest girl in school. Curse him!

    Thanks for the great post! D

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks, Daisy. LOL. My Robbie’s real name was Robena. You can prob. understand why she went by ‘Robbie.’
      Interestingly, for the first two years I ‘like’ Robbie, I though her name was spelled ‘Robie.’
      Love your comment about handwriting analysis. I never thought of that. I think I relied on subtle clues from the card selection itself.

      Like

  9. jeff7salter says:

    Well, Jenn …
    I bet the essence of a lot of those stories end up in your novels somewhere.
    Am I right?

    Like

    • Jenn! says:

      Yes, you’re right. But since I write adventurous historical romances, I’m hindered just a touch.

      Like

      • jeff7salter says:

        Jenn, yes … I thought of that right after I posted my comment.
        But think of the fun you could have writing a bold, brave pirate who suddenly was bashful around the woman who’d caught his eye and touched his heart.

        Like

  10. What an adorable post! I’m dying to hear how you found your voice long enough to ask her to the 8th grade prom. Do tell!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks, Meredith.
      Well, like I said, it could take an entire column to tell this tale of the ‘date’ but suffice it to say that I didn’t ask Robbie in ‘person’. I called her on the phone.
      As i remember, I made my family clear out of the two rooms (living rm & kitchen) where the phone was (on the wall in the doorway between those rooms), so I could speak ‘privately.’ I called Robbie’s home and asked to speak to her. I identified myself and, following the etiquette of the day, asked if she would like to go to the prom with me.
      I had rehearsed those few words endlessly.
      Poor girl never knew what she was getting into. Ha.
      Fortunately one of her good friends was also there and she sat at the table with us. I think they spoke to each other a bit. LOL

      Like

  11. everwriting says:

    I remember so many of these: Spinning the Bottle; Valentine’s mailbags; first kiss – I can still feel the terror! But such innocence we enjoyed. Thanks for the trip back – we weren’t so different in San Francisco, you know.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Leigh, thanks for visiting!
      Yeah, such memories.
      I so badly botched my first TEEN kiss (after a date) that I still cringe when I think about it. But that’s another girl and another story … and six grades after this tale.

      Like

  12. Leigh says:

    One of these days, I’ll share my cringe moment with you.

    Like

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  18. Aww such a sweet story!

    Liked by 1 person

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