It's Valentine's Day again. And visions of cupcakes with pink frosting are dancing in my head. Who can forget the school parties of heart-shaped cookies and candies, red punch, and cupcakes slathered in romantic frosting? We kids were in love: with sugar. (I wonder how dentists celebrate this sweets-intensive holiday.)

Each of us had lovingly decorated the shoebox on our desk with doilies and stickers and hearts. And now the time had arrived. The teacher appointed four or five kids, adept at deciphering elementary school scrawl, as mailmen. Each child grabbed a handful of small envelopes and raced around the room, depositing them in the appropriate boxes.

And we held our breath, hoping we weren't the weird kid that no one had wanted to give a Valentine's Day card to. After receiving three or four deliveries, we knew we were accepted, we were liked – either that or the other kids' moms had made them give a card to every kid in the class just like ours did. That doubt always lingered until at least ten small envelopes floated into our box. Then we could hold our head high again.

And tear into the envelopes. Sometimes the envelopes were more entertaining than the cards inside. It was always interesting to see phonics at work. My envelopes read "Leesa" and "Lesa" and "Leessa" - and "Lisa Pizza." (Obviously the last was from a future poet.)

Some of the cards were handmade. Most were mass-produced and punny. "Bee mine" with a picture of a buzzing bee. "I love you beary much" from a cartoon bear. "I fish you a wonderful Valentine's Day!" with surprise! a tuna. When I was a kid, most of the printed valentines were generic characters. Occasionally we'd get a Snoopy card, but usually it was an unknown dog by an unknown artist: "I woof you!" The unknown artist probably never saw "punny kids cards" in his future when he studied the masters in college, but greeting cards paid the bills.

Now, it must be more difficult for unknown graphic punsters to make a living with Valentine's Day cards. Today, they are filled with the latest, hottest cartoon character from the most popular TV show or movie blockbuster. One year it'll be Pirates of the Caribbean: "Argh! Happy Valentine's Day to Ye!" Another year, Sponge Bob Squarepants. I wonder if anyone buys doilies anymore, if anyone folds a red or pink sheet of paper in half and cuts half a heart and unfolds it with wonder, seeing a complete heart before their eyes.

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Lisa J. Parker's writing and creative works including poems, books, short stories, essays, movies, greeting graphics, and photographs.


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