General Fiction posted January 8, 2017

This work has reached the exceptional level
This is a memory from childhood.

Valentine's Day on McKinley Road

by Marykelly

Most of my early childhood memories make me smile, partly with amusement and partly with nostalgia. I lived on 7 McKinley Road in Worcester, MA, and along with all the other children on my street I was a McKinley Road kid. McKinley Road was more than a street to live on, it was a family neighborhood where everyone knew one another and kids of all ages spilled into each other's yards to play.

There were routines on McKinley Road that seemed normal at the time, but now when I remember the way we did some things I feel a smile appear on my face and I shake my head in wonder. For example, if I wanted to go outside and play with someone, usually my friend, Cathy, I asked my mother if I could call her, but calling didn't mean picking up the phone and dialing Cathy's number. Calling meant standing at Cathy's back door and in my loudest voice shouting, "Cathy, Cathy, Cathy," until she came outside or gave me the bad news that she couldn't play. Friends shouting at back doors was a constant background sound on McKinley Road.

The custom of sharing valentines on McKinley Road also had its own peculiar rules and for that I have bittersweet memories. There was a distinction between school valentines and neighborhood valentines. For school, I had to have a valentine for everyone in the class whether I liked them or not. The night before Valentine's Day, I sat at the kitchen table and wrote out valentines that I had to sign with, Love, and then my name. When I complained about how much trouble that was and put my pencil down in protest, my mother gave me back my thick pencil with all the bite marks on it and told me to keep writing. The next day, I brought them to school and just before lunch we exchanged valentines in the classroom. It was fun, but pretty ordinary.

After school was a different story. I didn't have to have a valentine for everyone on the street and when I signed, Love, I meant it. Delivering valentines on McKinley Road was different to say the least. Instead of putting the valentines for friends through the mail slot in the front door or knocking on the back door and handing out the valentines, kids on McKinley Road would put the valentine down at their friend's front door, ring the doorbell, then run down the front steps and hide in the bushes or behind a tree. They waited for the door to open and whoever the valentine was meant for would pick it up and look around to see who left it. It was OK to pretend not to see who was hiding and just go back inside the house. I had done this for several years and I loved the adventure of it until the day the adventure wasn't so much fun after all.

My experience delivering a valentine to Russell Rogers is my bittersweet memory. He was two grades ahead of me in school and I didn't really play with him as much as watch him play with the older boys. I really liked Russell and I thought he liked me because every now and then he waved at me. My girlfriends thought he liked me too so that was all the evidence I needed. When I signed my valentine to Russell I wrote, Love, Guess Who.

Russell lived at the very opposite end of McKinley Road from me so I had time to work up my nerve to ring his bell as I walked down the street. His yard had lots of hedges so there were plenty of places to hide. I couldn't wait to see his face when he opened my valentine. I knew that he would know it was from me and I could just picture his big smile.

As I went up the steps to his front porch and put my valentine down I felt someone else behind me on the porch. It was Priscilla Ford and she had a valentine for Russell too. Now, I wasn't sure what to do, but before I could pick my valentine back up Priscilla, I always called her Miss Prissy, reached over my head and rang the bell. We both raced down the front steps and hid behind the same hedge. Miss Prissy was elbowing me to get a better spot to see the porch. Suddenly, the door opened and there was Russell pretending not to see the commotion going on behind the bushes. He picked up the valentines and very slowly opened one and read it, then opened the other one and read. As he walked down the steps toward the bushes Miss Prissy and I both stood up. I smiled at Russell, but he smiled at Miss Prissy. Then Miss Prissy smiled at me but it wasn't a friendly smile. It was a smug, ha, ha, ha smile. Just when I thought things couldn't get worse they did. Russell looked at me and gave me back my valentine! The last thing I saw as I took my valentine and started running home was Miss Prissy and Russell sitting side by side on the front steps and Russell was reading her valentine again.

I love most of my memories as a McKinley Road kid, but that Valentine's Day was the worst day of my young life and I thought my heart was going to burst out of my chest as I ran all the way home crying, "I hate valentines, I hate valentines, I hate valentines, I hate Miss Prissy, I hate Miss Prissy, I hate Miss Prissy, I hate Russell, I hate Russell, I hate Russell!"

My first broken heart was on Valentine's Day on McKinley Road. This was the same street where my roller skates often came undone and I skinned my knees on the sidewalk; where I jumped off my swing when it was at its highest point and broke my ankle, where I slipped off my scooter and scraped my elbows. All these things hurt but they didn't come close to the pain of my broken heart. Eventually, my scrapes and breaks healed, and so did my broken heart, but it took some extra time and it left a scar.

Valentines Writing Contest contest entry

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