One way of escaping the ridicule from classmates for your mistake is to have someone make a bigger mistake
Oakhurst Elementry School had rules for everything. I learned early on to just accept them. Some made sense to a 4th grader, most I didn’t even understand.
I wasn’t too unhappy with school; I just thought I was.
There was one rule that I totally understood.
Valentine’s Day: every kid attending, K-6 had to give a Valentine’s Day card for everyone in his/her class or not give anybody in the class a Valentine.
This policy was explained to every parent of every kindergarten student that enrolled at Oakhurst, right from the beginning. Most parents saw the wisdom of this inclusivity and passed it on to their children in an understandable way.
I remember catching on to the fact that; some kids would get lots and some kids, not lots. The not lots would feel bad. I got it!
This policy did nothing to diminish the importance of Valentine’s Day and possibly enhanced the significance of it.
That’s why a couple of days before my mother always took me to Fink’s 5 & 10 store to get a punch out book of 25 cards. More than enough for all my classmates.
I liked to have those few extras in case I messed up — either by poking the cards out from the book recklessly or botching my signature.
This 4rd grade year Valentine’s Day was going to be different. I learned something special that I definitely was going to try.
While my mother and I were in Fink’s getting my cards; Beth, the Fink’s 10 year old daughter, taught me how to sign my name using a code.
The code was far from complicated.
The numbers 1–26 corresponded to the letters in the alphabet in descending order: 1=A, 2=B,3=C,4=D and so on.
I made up my mind to do that very thing signing my cards this February 14th.
I was sure that 4th graders knew of the code and would be able to decipher who sent them the cards. Especially the girls.
As part of the rules and to keep mayhem at a minimum in the classroom, all cards had to be opened when the kids had left the classroom for the day. Hopefully at home.
My project for the night before was to translate the letters in my name to numbers. Something that I was more than qualified to do.
The only problem that I seemed to overlook was that I mixed up the 3rd letter turning Brian 2–18–9–1–14 into Brain 2–18–1–9–14.
I never caught the faux pas.
I realized my mistake when my mother got the first phone call from the mother one of the girls in my class. The only one whose card I signed with with XO. Her mother was very nice about pointing out to my mother what could have been an embarrassing situation if handled otherwise.
I signed all my cards with 2–18–1–9–14.
Instead of Brian
She didn’t mention the XO.
Nobody made too much of my mistake.
Turns out, I was not the star of Oakhurst Elementry that Valentine’s Day.
Whit Whitaker grabed all the attention.
He was a bully in the 6th grade.
The numbers for letters signature novelty swept the school that year. Everybody thought it was soooo cooool! Especially the 5th and 6th graders.
Apparently, Whit got his numbers and letters mixed up too.
He sent all the kids in his whole 6th grade Valentine’s Day cards.
He followed the school rules.
Instead of 23–8–9–20 for Whit; like me, he messed up his numbers and signed 19–8–9–20.*
He closed all of his cards to girls with XO.
Yes, Whit was the real star of that particular Valentine’s Day at Oakhurst Elementary.
- A quick code translation: 19–8–9–20 spells Shit — but Whit sent it along with a hug and a kiss.
Happy Valentine’s Day!