The silver haired reflection in the mirror seemed unfamiliar – where were the strawberry blonde curls, the freckled cheeks? The first Valentine’s Day in fifty-two years without Ed. The first Valentine Ed ever gave me was actually sixty years ago. Cut out of red construction paper and pasted on white notebook paper. I was eight and Ed had made one for all the girls, but when he handed them out I was last. He laid it on my desk and started to walk away, then stopped and looked at me and said “Your hair sure is curly.” That was all he had to say, from that day on I knew I was in love.
It took about another eight years before Ed ever said another thing to me on Valentine’s Day, but this time it was me who delivered a card. It was from the dime store and in it I wrote “Remember me? I was the eight year old with freckles and curly hair. Eleanor” At lunch I got up all my nerve and laid it on his lunch tray as I walked by.
That evening as I washed dinner dishes there was a knock on the door. I could hear daddy say “Come on in, son, how can I help you?” I froze as I heard Ed’s voice stammer “Well, sir, I want to ask permission to give this box of chocolates to your daughter, and, well, and sir, I was hoping I might could take Eleanor to the soda shop tomorrow night?” There was a long silence, I couldn’t breathe. Suddenly my younger brother said “Who would want to take Eleanor to the soda shop?” Daddy intervened “Buddy, go on in to the kitchen and help mama.” Then he said “Well, son, let’s see if Eleanor wants to go to the soda shop with you. Eleanor? Come on out here.”
Oh my goodness, my hands were still in the soapy water, I had an apron on, my hair was probably a tousled mess. But I didn’t waste any time, throwing the dish rag down I practically ran into the living room. Every Valentine’s Day since, Ed has always written on the card envelope “Freckles & Curls, That’s My Girl”. This year he would not.
Retrieving the shoebox where I had put each Valentine card, I took off the lid. The faint scent of Ed’s aftershave lifted out as I stared down at all the years. I decided I would start with the first one scrawled by an eight year old boy and work my way up to last year’s. I dumped the box upside down. To my surprise the first card on the bottom wasn’t that faded construction paper heart, it was a red envelope that read “I’m Sorry Freckles”. Inside was a construction paper heart and written on it was “I knew our first Valentine’s Day apart would find you reminiscing. Just want you to know that those eight years between the first Valentine card and our first date, I was in love too. Someday together again, this time you’ll be stuck with me forever. Bring chocolates! Love Ed”
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