Today, I received a large manilla envelope of love letters -- return address: Jefferson Elementary School, Warren, Ohio.
Now, I already have love letters. I really do. There aren't enough to bundle and tie in a ribbon. Nor are there enough to hide in the attic to tumble into the walls of my home (like someone in the news did, to the amazement of future remodelers).
Nor are they all from one person. (In fact, NONE of them is from my husband -- largely owing to the fact that once we met we were rarely apart and to the fact that he professes to NOT be a writer.) But they are from many men/boys and are stored in another large manilla envelope -- this one marked, "Personal."
Why I save them: I keep them, not because I harbor any amour for any of the senders, but because they remind me that I was once someone members of the opposite sex fancied. On gloomy days when I see one too many crows feet stomping along my eyes, I can read, "If I was a rainbow, I would wrap you in my colors to keep you safe and warm."
Of course, my husband still fancies me. His ability to stick by me through thick and thin, better or worse, as it was, is a living love letter. He IS the rainbow.
But that has nothing at all to do with Jefferson Elementary ...
Each of the love letters sent from Mrs. Brenda Stauffer's class of first-graders has an illustration of a large heart pierced by an arrow. Some hearts are colored red or pink as you might imagine. Others are colored in Crayola rainbows. Most have a class photo copied onto the right hand corner. Each picture shows a beautiful or handsome young face -- brown, black, or white -- smiling.
Ah, to be young and in love!
But, alas, not with me. The letters were forwarded at my request. "What," I asked Mrs. Stauffer a few weeks ago, "do your students love?"
The answers: She kindly assented to find out in time for Valentine's Day. They wrote the responses themselves, in pencil, in their own handwriting. And here is what the 6- and 7-year-olds wrote:
"I love my grandfather because he takes me to Clevelan! To see my cousins. It is fun!" -- Marceda McElroy.
"I love my teachers because they make school icsiding [exciting] and teach me and I learn good things." -- Brian Turner.
"I love my dog because he loves me." -- Matt.
"I love my horse. She is fun to ride. Her name is Ginger. She hads a baby named Frot [fruit] Loop." -- Haley Holbrook.
"I love my mom because se is hqy [she is happy]." -- Carlos Huff.
"I love my dad. He likes to bid a igloo with me in the snow. It is fun!" -- Julius Yuhasz.
"I love candy and cards because I love to eat candy and look at the cards." -- Okeo Parks.
"I love my cat and dog. Thay are the bset pets." -- Tyler Sweitzer.
"I love my pets because they play with me and love me and my dog plays a lot." -- Aaron Garrett.
"I love dad. He gait me tos in frood [gave me toys and food]. We play gmes. We go outside in the snow. We go to the zoo." -- Christopher Shufford.
"I love my teachers because they teach me to read and writ. They are the best teachers." -- Lamar Freeman.
"I love my mom. She does theyings [things] four me. She is very special to me and she is prity." -- Bianca Davis.
"I love my sisters because they bake cookies with me. Thin we eat thim and they are good! -- Arnesha Tipton.
"I love my sisters because they like to play with me. We like to play Barbies." -- Victoria Danko.
"We love our students because they are wonderful learners and great thinkers. Our students are a special group of first-graders." -- Miss Dello Stritto and Mrs. Brenda Stauffer.