"we are having a competition," my home room third/fourth grade teacher said, "this year your Valentine's boxes will be judged. the best ones* will win a prize."
the room shuddered with excitement. small voices chattered and whispered. my ears perked up. school was pretty boring for me. i just wanted to draw. i lived for the art projects.
i loved knights and medieval stuff. i was constantly drawing knights, making knight costumes--for myself, for my teddy-bears, fashioning wooden swords in my great-grandfather's rusted metal death trap of a garage. pretty much from the get-go i decided my Valentine's box would be a castle.
this is a sketch of my box. as you can see, the letters went in a slot in the top. the drawbridge was operated by fishing line. the top ends tied together. it would close the drawbridge when you pulled it. you accessed your Valentine's goodies through the door in the front of the castle. i glued two boxes together. i cut out the parapets. i covered it all with grey construction paper and drew the details on. i finished it off with some little flags. i even drew some knights (not pictured) that i cut out and attached stands to so they could mill around the castle, guarding the trove.
pretty cool right? that's the sort of box that would win a prize. a sure thing. pictures of me shaking the teacher's hand, "local boy does good."
apparently my castle was no good.
no prize was given me. no recognition. no handshakes. nada. zilch. zippo. not even a "good job."
it was The Castle Sucksalot.
it's an oversight that has bothered me for years. every year at this time, a small black cloud enters my life. my Valentine's Day is colored with a tinge of bitterness.
i guess they thought my dad did it for me or something. that's the only thing i can figure out.
still. it was mean of my teacher.**
so Happy Valentine's Day, everybody.
* note the plural. several prizes. none for lil janxy.
** it wasn't the first time educators used my artistic leaning against me. my first grade teacher would punish me by not letting me do art projects. a Groundhog's Day and looped construction paper flag stand out in my mind.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: i've had the question a couple of times now. i don't remember who won. i'm not the sort of person who can give you the name of every single teacher i had in every grade and every class. (props go out, however, to Mrs. Moutray, who let me create art for her bulletin boards and paint the old metal bathtub filled with pillows she kept in the room for us to read in.) i kind of floated around during elementary school. i was the kid who showed up to school dressed as the easter bunny... in november.