When I was in second grade, my mom had a great idea: we would make homemade valentines for me to give out to everyone in my class. She broke out the construction paper, paper heart doilies, glue sticks, markers and the pinking shears from her sewing kit. I was THRILLED! I thought pinking shears were the coolest scissors I’d ever seen and I loved every minute of making those cards with my mom.
After a wonderful night of valentine design, I woke the next morning, packed my homemade stash in my backpack and headed to school. When it came time to pass out the valentines, my teacher instructed everyone to go from desk to desk and slip our valentines into the construction-paper envelopes taped to the front of each student’s desk.
I froze. Everyone else had bubble-gum colored, store-bought valentines. Garfield- , Strawberry Shortcake-, and Snoopy-adorned valentines flew from the hands of my classmates. The sick feeling in my stomach told me that I was giving out valentines that were ABNORMAL and people would laugh at me. No one else had made their own cards. I must have been a freak for doing so. I was mortified, silently cursing my mom for forcing me to make these awful things that would jettison me so far from the “socially acceptable” zone that I’d never make my way back before prom.
With nothing else to hand out, I quietly slid my devastatingly crafty creations into everyone’s valentine pockets and returned to my desk filled with dread. I awaited the social fallout.
Much to my surprise, my classmates ooohed and ahhhhed over my creations. Some came and thanked me personally, telling me my valentine was their favorite. I was elated. I silently apologized to and thanked my mom for helping me make the best valentines ever. Undoubtedly I puffed up a little bit with pride.
I realized a few lessons that day:
1. Being different isn’t always devastating.
2. People enjoy receiving a thoughtful, homemade card. It makes them feel special.
3. I have an irrepressible love of craft supplies and that’s OK, people will find a way to see beyond that and love me anyway.
More than I could have foreseen on that fateful day in second grade, these lessons have served me well. Developing a certain level of comfort with being different has allowed me to live a full, authentic life (perhaps much to the chagrin of my parents during my heavy metal, black finger nail polish, leather-clad teen years). And connecting with people through cards, especially ones I make with my own two hands, has been a gift. The thrill of creating them is wonderful; having someone else derive joy from them is icing on the cupcake.
In honor of that emotion-filled day back in the early 80s, what I see as my crafting birth, I am having a valentine-making party this weekend for a few friends. I can’t wait to share pictures here with you!