My whole class got ready for Valentine’s Day for weeks. Everyone brought a shoebox to school, and we decorated it with crêpe paper flowers and hearts. I had lots of shoe-boxes to pick from on account of everyone getting new hard sole shoes at Baldy’s shoe store way back in September. Special for school starting. Besides, by the end of summer our Ked’s Fliers had holes in the toes and raveled canvas around the ankle, and that’s not even counting shoe-laces with knots holding them together.
Art stuff was hard for me. I got paste all stuck in my hair and all over my clothes. I liked to eat paste, too. The smell got all up in my nose and begged my fingers to put some in my mouth. Yummy. Teacher said it was no good and would make me sick, but it never did. Not even a little bit.
Mom brought home little store-bought cards in big bags from the grocery store, and I printed MY name on the back. Then I got to choose which card went to each student in my class. I had two Bettys and a Betsy in my class and two Lindas. I’ve heard about kids being sore or sad that they didn’t receive a card on Valentine’s Day. I gave a card to everyone, and I got one from everyone, too. That’s just mean to leave someone out. Who got which card was the tricky part. I wanted to make sure I expressed my love for that certain someone in just the right way. Should Frankie’s say “Be Mine” or “Forever Yours”? And what if Frankie’s to me just said, “Friends”? What if he gave me the ‘teacher’ card that came in every box? That would be the worst ’cause that meant he never even thought about which card he gave me.
I almost flunked out of Kindergarten ’cause I went haywire on my writing. Valentine’s Day saved me. All year, up until I had to get my cards ready for the party, I wrote my name wrong. Mom talked about my printing to everyone who would listen: all my aunts, Grandma Z, and even Betty’s and Nancy’s moms.
Mom said, “Why do you write your name like you’re looking in a mirror?”
I looked at my name, clear as day, just the way it was supposed to be. What in the world was she talking about? I wrote just like everybody else.
Mom said I had to get my name right or I might not go to First Grade. She never said that to me; I just heard that part later. She sat right beside me while I put my name on every single Valentine Day card letter by letter, even Frankie’s. Mom made sure I turned all the letters ’round and marched across the page from left to right.
After 42 cards, my printing was, well, it was right. I got so proud of my name, I wrote it every time I got a chance. The best place was right by the back door, under the light switch. I used my favorite Crayola for that: red. Red was my favorite color. I got to look at my name every time I went out to the bus, or out to do the barn chores, or when I fed the chickens. For years I saw my proud work looking back at me.
Back then, nobody knew about dyslexia. There were no special classes, or learning disabilities. I was lucky. My mother took the time to re-train my brain. I can still write like that, as easily as the right way. It’s a fun trick to show to the grandkids. But then again, many schools are no longer teaching cursive, so some don’t even understand the trick.
As for Mom, the last time she commented on my penmanship she said, “You still float the “l.” I never noticed that.