In third grade, I won the Valentine box decorating contest.
When I was a kid at Hanthorn Elementary School in Independence, Missouri, every major holiday brought with it an elaborate celebration, complete with sugary confections, fun games and prizes galore. The teachers must have dreaded these party days since they took place in their individual classrooms and were collaborated by “room mothers” who volunteered to coordinate the frenzy of festivities.
For Valentine’s Day, each child was instructed to bring to school Valentine cards for every single person in his or her class. I remember sorting through the cards Mom bought at the Mini Mart dime store at the Gaslight Square shopping strip and making sure that the messages were appropriate for the assigned recipient: race cars or rocket ships for the cool boys, pretty flowers and animals for the girls and nothing too mushy or heart-filled for anyone.
The other requirement for the Valentine’s Day party was that all children bring a decorated box in which to receive their cards. That year, we were told there would be a competition for the best box that would be presided over by the room mothers.
I honestly have no idea from where the idea came to create my fluffy white Valentine box, but it involved cutting squares of facial tissue, wrapping them around the tip of a pencil, dipping them in white glue and affixing them to a shoe box that had a slot cut in its lid in which the cards would be inserted. The result was a cloud-like creation that resembled a snowball more than it did a Valentine box.
Upon arrival into Mrs. Jackson’s class that Valentine’s Day, each child placed his or her creation on top of the cabinet that ran the length of a row of windows. That morning seemed like an eternity. Just before the lunch carts rolled down the halls to deliver our noontime meals, we delivered our Valentines to the appropriate boxes that would be judged during the after-lunch recess.
Recess was a blur with the anticipation of the Valentine box competition, so when the bell rang to go back inside, the lines formed without any stragglers. Upon heading back into the room, the scent of cupcakes wafted in the air and we were told to immediately take our seats so that the best Valentine’s box could be announced.
There was a third place and a runner up, but I don’t remember whom they were or what they had made – just that my name was announced as the winner! My tissue-covered shoebox had been chosen the best Valentine box in Mrs. Jackson’s third grade class.
And even though the story didn’t come to mind until after I transformed this former tissue box to collect admission for Michael Quinn’s “My Valentine” performance piece, it must have been subconsciously inspired by a little craft project I took on more than 40 years ago.
With heart-felt wishes for the coming week,
The Elegant Thrifter