Instead of being pleased, I was horrified and completely frozen in my tracks. What would I say? Why did he like me? We had never talked. We were both shy, well-behaved kids who sat in their desks, raised their hands, stayed in line.
He had brown hair and freckles across the bridge of his nose. And, he was persistent.
Just before gymn class, while we were standing in line, he had another girl hand me an enormous paper valentine.It was at least 12 inches across - made from a paper doily. I held it awkwardly, not sure where to put it on my way to play kickball.
But that wasn't all.
The next day, without any further encouragment, he gave me (through the able delivery assistance of one of my friends) a carefully wrapped jewelry box. My girlfriends gathered around me after school to watch me open the mysterious present. It was a frantic gathering of women-to-be, hoping that they could capture a glimpse of love and live vicariously through my romance.
I tore off the pretty wrapping paper.
Inside the hinged, very grown up jewelry box, was a gold heart locket.
I gasped. The girls cheered.
"What will you say?" they asked me. "Are you going out with him?"
"Going out with him?" I thought to myself. I've never even spoken to him! I was worried and confused.
That night, I reluctantly showed my mom and dad the love-lorn gift of my schoolmate. My mom felt I shouldn't keep it. "It is too much," she insisted. "She's too young!"
My dad thought otherwise, probably realizing that a young girl's rejection could scar a little boy's heart forever.
I kept the locket, explaining to him that we could be friends.
Romance never did really blossom. Throughout fourth grade, I never talked to that little boy. We remained distant friends and glanced at each other across the schoolroom.
Today, he is married to one of my friends, one of the girls who stood in that circle while I opened the locket. He is a wonderful husband and father.
I think I should probably thank him for that fourth grade valentine. I still have that little locket - that completely unexpected declaration of friendship and love that bolstered my self esteem and made me hope for and believe in the real thing.