The wooden classroom floors were scuffed and worn from first graders hard-soled shoes skipping, jumping, occasionally walking, and dragging mud and snow in from outside. By the time it was my turn to be a first grader in the old brick building, the floors creaked with each step.
Wooden desks, attached in four rows were bolted to the floor and eliminated any rearranging of the room. Flip top desks and flip up seats added to the familiar noises of the creaking wooden floors. Inkwell holes were in the right corner of each desktop (sorry left handers… you lose again. There were six or seven seats in each row as I remember. Each seat was assigned on the first day of school and adjusted throughout the year by the teacher.
First grade was full of “firsts”. First packed lunch, first bus ride, first recess, first friends that were not my cousins, first Christmas gift exchange, first skinned knees on the playground. I remember the first Valentine’s Day exchange. I liked it better than Christmas. Everyone decorated a shoe box, or a paper bag with red hearts, doilies, crepe paper or aluminum foil… there were no elaborate designs like you see today, but good homespun boxes with your name clearly on the box and with a slot for valentines to slip into.
My teacher, Mrs. Gassman, wrote everyone’s name on the chalkboard and we copied the names on yellow tablet paper with our fat primary pencils, along with the location of our seat. Shirley Row 2. Seat 5. Everyone must bring a valentine for each student.
Finally the big day arrived. One row at a time, we distributed our valentines into our classmates boxes. Mrs. Gassman was pretty crafty. She made Valentines Day into a reading, writing, and sorting lesson like no other. After every card was passed out (including a special one for the teacher) we opened our boxes and tore open the tiny envelopes. Most of the valentines were simple messages, some were home made, and one or two had a lollipop attached. It was simple but it was fun. I treasured my Valentine’s, keeping the box and looking at them over and over throughout the school year. At some point, my mom probably made me throw them out but they were special and even the simplest little message meant a lot to me.
I’m sure there were cookies or cupcakes and Kool-Aid afterwards, but the tiny Valentine cards were enough for me.