Michael, Mark, Steve, and Michelle

It’s Valentine’s Day today, so I’m sharing a light little story (heretofore never shared with a soul) about the importance of spelling, or literacy, or just plain having a heart.

Back in the day, in elementary school, we decorated shoe boxes to create our very own Valentine’s Day “mailbox” for all the cards that all the kids in our class would hand out (and thus began Cupid’s relentless personal torture in my life, but that’s another story, for a therapist, probably). I don’t remember if I actually handed out Valentine’s cards to my classmates back then. But in the sixth grade, I remember specifically that I handed out three.

One to Michael. One to Mark. And one to, Steve, I think, maybe. All of the Valentine’s cards said the same thing:

“I have a crush on you. Love, your secret admirer.”

So on the big day, when everyone opened their Valentine’s boxes and read their cards, I watched the objects of my affection with great anticipation, eager to see if they would glance around the room for a clue to the identity of the mysterious admirer. I’m pretty sure none did. But a girl in my class later came running up to me, anxious, excited, beaming with joy and the biggest smile I’d ever seen on her face. You see, Michelle wasn’t a particularly well-liked girl. She was “new” for one thing, not what 6th-graders traditionally regard as “pretty,” and maybe a bit awkward as a young girl developing a little earlier than the rest of us. I always tried to be nice to the kids that others didn’t exactly welcom. My mom taught me that, and I’m grateful.

So Michelle knew she had a “friend” in me, and she was soooo eager to show me the most wonderful Valentine’s card she’d ever received. It read: “I have a crush on you. Love, your secret admirer.” And it was in my handwriting. I never knew whether I spelled Michael wrong on the envelope, or whether the person who put the cards in the boxes didn’t know the difference between Michael and Michelle. But in that moment, face to face with her beaming glory, I did not have the heart to break hers. So perhaps to this day, Michelle takes joy in knowing that someone in the sixth grade had a crush on her that Valentine’s Day. And I’m okay with that.

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