Picture it : 1966 in Arlington Heights, IL at Our Lady of Perpetual Angst Catholic School.

Mrs. Ludy’s third grade class had been designing their special Valentine mailboxes all week. Snippets of red construction paper cut with blunt-nose scissors speckled the classroom floor. Tatters of paper lace doilies and glitter stuck to clothes and jackets while the aroma of Elmer’s School Paste permeated the air. The would-be pretty girl with matted hair who sat in the back of room was peeling dried paste off her fingers and eating it. Linda Conover was her name. She could really put away the paste.

Finally, the big day arrived. The fancy, red mail satchels were securely fastened to each child’s desk with masking tape, awaiting the many cards and heart-shaped candies that were sure to be delivered. It was a class of fifty-two kids, so most of them fashioned their paper satchels extra large.

Row by row, Mrs. Ludy allowed the students to deliver their Valentines. Of course it was mass confusion; much squealing and giggling ensued.

One little girl sat quietly at her desk with a perplexed look on her face. Her chin quivered and her eyes welled with tears. She fought them, though. She’d be damned if she’d let anyone see her cry.  She was a quiet child who got along with everyone but wasn’t extra-chummy with anyone. Perhaps that was why there were only two Valentine’s in her satchel. One was from Mrs. Ludy, who pretty much had to give a card to everyone. The other was for another child that was mistakenly put in the wrong satchel. The little girl got up and delivered it to its rightful owner.

One Valentine? And from the teacher!

“How can this be?” she wondered. “I’d brought Valentine’s for everyone—even the yucky boys— but they all forgot me.”

It didn’t seem real.

Why would they do this? Was it a conspiracy? Do they hate me? But why?

She watched in confused silence as her classmates ate candy, chattered and read their cards. Mrs. Ludy was grading papers or reading a magazine at her own desk and wasn’t paying attention.

The little girl could just as easily not have been there, or even existed. She felt invisible.

After about ten forevers, the school bell rang and it was time to go home. Fifty-one students packed up their Valentines and satchels and headed home. After they left, the fifty-second student ripped hers into quarters, then into eighths, and deposited the pieces carefully in the waste basket by the door.


18 thoughts

  1. How awful. I’m glad there was nothing done like this in my school. I was already picked on because I was the quiet one and had only a few friends. So I would have really hated this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was virtually mute in school up through 4th grade. School was scary and unfriendly. Considering it a place to socialize didn’t occur to me. My socializing took place outside of school, with a couple of neighborhood friends and my cousin, who was a few years older. When my parents divorced and my mom and us kids moved to another neighborhood, where the teachers were warm, the students were friendly, and we lived where lots of kids lived near us, things changed. In those early years I didn’t feel left out as much as invisible 😦


  3. My granddaughter’s third grade class does not require anyone to bring Valentines but if they do, they have to bring enough for everyone. The students sign them but they do not put recipient names on them. The teacher sorts them into big envelopes for each child.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. See, now that makes sense. I’m glad they do it that way now. What happened to me took place in the mid-60s. People didn’t know much about childrens’ tender psyches. It was traumatic.


      1. I grew up back then and remember the trauma of not just being picked last for a touch football game but not getting picked at all. But I guess we turned out OK, right?


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