The month of February is usually crappy weather wise—bitter cold wind, freezing temps, snow, ice, grey skies—plain ugly with anticipation of Spring. However, the month of February also holds blissful childhood memories of my Valentine’s Days of yore. For artist-child Sydney, the day was much bigger—it held the perfect opportunity for another art op—an altered and magnificently adorned shoebox.
In grade school, shoeboxes were transformed into mailboxes for store-bought, signed Valentines between classmates. If Sydney was lucky, a written sentiment besides just a name, such as “Love, Richard, or Sincerely yours, Robby” was smiling material for daydreams. That was the icing on the heart cake, but even that was insignificant compared to THE BOX. The art supplies were few and simple; a raw shoebox from mother’s closet, tin foil, scotch tape, a knife, embellishments, and of course, Elmer’s glue.
The first task was the cutting of the slit in the lid for the “mail” slot. Mother held the knife and made the slice. Then Sydney went to work creating, designing, and decorating a perfect, most Valentine-worthy vessel. First, she covered the box with tin foil for bling. Using Elmer’s, Sydney glued hearts, cutout pictures of cupid, candy hearts, and paper doilies. Once, she created the box to resemble a house with the mail slot at the roof ridge.
Sydney selectively chose a perfect Valentine for each—her friends and cute boys would get the “finest” of the packaged lot, with those that were just “ok” for the others. Just before the big day, Sydney carefully scribed, addressed, and sealed the envelopes.
Feb.14. The boxes were strategically positioned on students’ desks, which made focusing on schoolwork impossible. Sydney scanned the others’ boxes for future inspiration. That afternoon the class sashayed through the desk aisles to deliver the Valentines— sliding one into each decorated slot. The treasures were to be saved for the big reveal at home after school—Sydney thought that was unfair and the anticipation painful.
Finally, at home, she anxiously, yet carefully opened each lick-sealed envelope. They went into two piles—pile one for cherishing, and pile two for tossing. Valentine’s Day was a yearly favorite for Sydney. However, the actual Valentines—even the favorites, the special ones, and even the most cherished were anti-climactic—merely secondary to the art-op—the designing of THE BOX.