The day was finally here. Not only was it Valentine's Day but it was also field trip day. Dinosaurs and elephants and whales and mummies awaited us at the museum. Mrs. Lee's Kindergarten class was like a bee hive, abuzz with excitement. Every activity had been planned down to the minute, we had been told. Instructions to get a good night's sleep and to eat a warm breakfast had been given as we left school the day before.
My school was just one block away so Mom walked me every day. It took a long time to get ready to leave the house, especially on a February morning. I put on my sweater, coat, mittens, hat, earmuffs, scarf, and boots. By the time I was in full gear it felt like I was standing on the Sun. Stepping outside was a relief but it only took a minute before I felt like I was in the North Pole instead. On that day I didn't care so much about the weather. I was more concerned with Valentines, planets, and fossils.
I could tell that Mrs. Lee was nervous. There was a lot to be done before we could load the school bus for our trip. We sang a few songs, made heart-shaped Valentines for our parents out of paper doilies and red construction paper, and ate paste -- I mean, glued it all together with paste.
Lunch was a 10:30 in the morning. How could that be? My cereal was still floating around in my stomach. Besides, my stomach was in excited knots. It didn't matter. We had to eat. It said so on the schedule and that was that.
So, we ate. The aromas of tuna, egg salad, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were much more noticeable in our small classroom than they were in the cafeteria. We ate at our seats; not sitting next to our best friends, but next to boys who thought it was hilarious to show us the half-chewed food in their mouths. The room felt warm as the radiator blasted out hot air and the sun shone through the dirty windows. Undigested cereal mixed with ham and cheese and room temperature milk. This day was quickly losing its appeal and there was still a bus ride ahead.
I was glad to hear the teacher announce that lunch was over. We were to put away our lunch boxes and take out our Valentine's Day cards. Like five-year-old mailmen, we went from desk to desk, slipping our cards into the slots on top of the shoeboxes we had uniquely decorated for this special occasion.
My heart nearly pounded out of my chest as I approached Billy B.'s desk. Billy R. was nice, but nowhere near as cute or smart as Billy B. There he was with his black slacks, red plaid shirt, and clip-on tie with hearts on it. His church shoes, which he only wore to school on special days, were shiny and clean. His hair was neatly combed as usual, except for those few little hairs that stood straight up as they came out of the swirl on the top of his head.
Everything was in slow-motion. He stood up as he saw me near his desk and I dreamed that he would say hello instead of asking Davie for a cootie shot. I wasn't holding my breath, though. Only two more steps and I would be delivering my card to him.
Wait, what is that noise? Looking at my classmates, it appeared that no one else had noticed the pounding in my head and stomping in my stomach. The cereal and ham sandwich were having a fight. Only one could win. "Stop you guys!" I thought to myself. But they wouldn't.
My hand was over Billy B.'s box now. If I could just deliver my card quickly, he would be my Valentine. I was sure the moon rock at the museum would be happy to hear my great news.
As the card slipped out of my hand and through the slot, it happened. I couldn't do a thing to stop it. There it was, all over Billy B. and his desk. His nicely ironed clothes and tie were destroyed. His hair would never be the same again. The pounding in my head stopped and the stomping in my stomach was gone. The cereal had won and the ham sandwich had been vanquished.
"Eeeeeews" filled the room as the teacher called the janitor. Billy B. was whisked away.
Minutes later the class lined up and walked out to the school bus. The boys wanted to sit in the back and the girls in the front. By the sound of it, the ride to the museum was going to be a noisy one. The bus driver knew he didn't have a chance against thirty kids so he just put his earmuffs on and closed his eyes as he waited for the signal to drive.
Suddenly, the talking and laughing stopped and everyone turned their attention to the front of the bus. There was Billy B. dressed in pants that were too short and a shirt that was too big. His church shoes had been replaced by two different sneakers because that's all they had in the office. His hair was sticking straight up, even the swirl had disappeared.
I noticed he was walking toward me. I pulled my wool hat over my face and cringed at the thought of what he would say, imagining that they wouldn't be the nicest words I had ever heard. I would understand if he wanted that cootie shot now.
He stepped up next to me. I could hear him breathing. A tap on my shoulder surprised me and I came out from under my hat.
He handed me an envelope. "Happy Valentine's Day," he said. "Are you feeling better?"
"Um, yeah," I replied. "Sorry about your clothes."
He sat down next to me as the bus drove away from school. "That's okay, I hated those clothes anyway," he said.
Happy Valentine's Day kiddos! Until next time... stay cool!
Copyright 2013 Martha Rodriguez