Heart Strings

posted Wednesday February 10th, 2010


The girls and I were in full valentine production mode last night, when Annabelle raised an eyebrow from across the dining room table and pointed.

“How is anyone going to be able to read those?” she asked, not unkindly.

She was referring to the treat bags Sophie was decorating with foam hearts and Yo Gabba Gabba stickers, as well as her name and each classmate’s name.

I love Valentine’s Day. It’s a nice, soft landing pad after being launched into the real world post-Christmas/Hanukkah. I’ve made myself busy – toasting almonds to mix with cherries and chocolate for the teachers, helping to plan the class parties (such as they are — it’s not like the old days, no homemade treats, and I just had a 15 minute discussion with the Safeway bakery manager about the perils of Red Dye No. 3) and generally geeking out.

But the most important part — the Writing of The Valentines — that, I have to admit, made me a little sad. I only knew which name Sophie was writing because she announced it before attacking each bag with her Sharpie — way easier for her to write with than pencil, ballpoint or crayon — but still resulting in something basically illegible. (Above are two of the better ones. The one on the right is for “Richard.”)

“Oh, I have a system,” I told Annabelle, turning one of the bags over to reveal a number in pencil. Each friend on the list has a different number I assigned as Sophie made each bag; I’ll make tags for the bags later, so that they can be handed out on Friday.

I wasn’t about to deprive Sophie of the ritual of making valentines. As we struggled with each one (she was cheerful throughout, I a little less — though trying hard to mask it) I tried to figure out why it was so much harder this year than last.

Oh yeah. In kindergarten, Sophie’s teacher handed out a list with names in big type; we were instructed to cut each out and have our child glue it to the card. But in first grade, your kid is supposed to be able to write another kid’s name — legibly.

Annabelle was impressed with my number system. It was better, I figured, than making Sophie feel bad about her penmanship. She had a ball — writing with flourishes, taking three lines to make her own five-letter name.

But the number thing didn’t go unnoticed. When she was done with the last one, for her teacher, Sophie held it up to show me she’d written a number on the back. I don’t know quite what to think of that — or, rather, what Sophie was thinking of the whole thing. 

Sometime soon, I’m told, the occupational therapist at school will officially introduce the Electronic Writing Device. Sophie will be able to “write” — to express her thoughts, catch up in school, have a good life.

But little things like valentines — which, to my sentimental (whiny?) way of thinking, are not so little — will always be a struggle.

Science fixed Sophie’s broken heart (hopefully for good, after the second operation) but there will always be little things that tug at the heart strings.

Life’s like that for all of us, in different ways, I know. It’s not just Sophie.

So how much should we dwell on it? Just the other day, my friend Trish and I debated that very subject. I argued that maybe we’re all self-actualizing just a little too much. 

Later, I wondered if the truth is that perhaps all of this embroidery and almond-toasting and valentine-making is just a way of keeping busy to avoid reality.  

Probably. Thank goodness Easter isn’t far off.

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Tags: Filed under: holidays by Amysilverman

One Response to “Heart Strings”

  1. Mmmmmm. My sister still is like that about every holiday and has always been kind of preppy control-freaky (parts of which — obviously not the grooming — run in the family). She’s good with reality but not so much with mortality.

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