The other day I went into a stationery store to buy a Valentine's Day card for my little niece. While I was looking for just the right card, I overheard a little girl ask her mother if she could get one for a boy in her class. It reminded me of the first time in my life I was shot by Cupid's arrow.
I was in Mrs. Ryan's fifth-grade class at the George Washington Elementary School in Deer Park. I liked a girl who lived around the corner from me. Her name was Sherry. She had strawberry-blonde hair and freckles. We took the same bus to school, and I often rode my bike over to her house in the afternoon. We were both shy.
That year, our class took a field trip to the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan on Valentine's Day. It was customary then to give all the girls in the class a card, but I wanted to be her one and only Valentine. What better time, I thought, was there for me to ask her?
The day before the trip, I went to the five-and-dime store on Deer Park Avenue to buy her a special card. It was heart-shaped, and had a puppy on the front gazing upward. I put it in my lunch box for the class bus trip to New York City. All I had to do was find the right moment to give it to her.
When we got to the museum, everyone knew what I was up to. I made the mistake of telling a friend. I could feel my heart beat faster as I watched for the right moment. After a couple of hours, my big chance finally arrived. As the entire class went into a courtyard to have a snack, I saw Sherry sitting on a bench. I seized the opportunity, and sat next to her.
"Would you be my Valentine?" I asked. Suddenly, I heard some of my friends laughing from behind a statue by Rodin.
"Yes," she replied. In an instant, I felt a fluttering sensation inside my chest. I was beside myself, and held her hand for maybe a second. Afterward, we sat together on the bus for the long ride home.
The following Monday, I rode my bike over to her house after school. As always, we simply chatted at the front gate. She never became my girlfriend and we would often kid each other about that day at the Guggenheim in later years. But, at least, for a brief moment, I was able to say I was her one and only Valentine.
The following Monday, I rode my bike over to her house after school. As always, we simply chatted at the front gate. She never became my girlfriend and we would often kid each other about that day at the Guggenheim in later years. But, at least, for a brief moment, I was able to say I was her one and only.