Everyone has both good and bad memories from their childhood. I typically focus my stories on the good ones, with just a few of the bad ones thrown in. I truly believe childhood memories are the greatest treasure one can possess and pass on to others.
This little treasure from my childhood is unique because it is both a bad and a good memory. This memory’s ending took years to finally show itself, and when it did, it surprised even me. Welcome, Dear Reader, to five-cent love.
Bully Brad’s spitball impacting the back of my head was a splat heard around the world. Well, at least around Old Mrs. Crabtree’s classroom, and it was never forgotten. The impact from that first day of third grade lasted much longer than the time it took for that wet wad of paper to finish its slow slide down the back of my shirt.
For the rest of the year, the desk in front of me stayed empty. I couldn’t blame the other kids though; after all, who wants to sit in front of a kid called Spitball? It seemed the chair would forever remain vacant. Luckily, for me, forever didn’t last long.
Love changes everything. After we returned from Christmas break, everything changed when she walked into the room. Candi Samples was her name, and she was a transfer student from California.
Sitting down in front of me, she tossed back long blonde hair that smelled just like coconuts. From that moment on, I knew she was going to be my girlfriend; I just had to find a way to show her that she should. And what better way than on the official day of love, Valentine’s Day! And with it being only six weeks away from that day of love, there was a lot of work for me to do.
From that moment, all my attention went into planning and not paying attention to anything Old Mrs. Crabtree did or said in class. But this story isn’t about the “F” I received on the spelling test that day. This story is about five-cent love.
The Plan. Shower her with so many love notes she would see how much she meant to me – Candi, not Old Mrs. Crabtree. I knew that once a year selected fifth graders went around to each classroom delivering Valentine cards. It was a fundraiser for new gym equipment, so there were no limits to how many cards a person could buy. If I showered Candi with Valentine cards all throughout the day, surely she would appreciate my efforts and then be my girlfriend.
Love cost money. It was going to take lots of money to send all those Valentine cards to Candi, and money was something I didn’t have much of in the third grade. But when I asked Dad, he said, “If you want money, you have to work for it.” So, I did.
For the next six weeks, I walked all over town collecting empty bottles. For each empty soft drink bottle turned into grocery stores, I’d receive five cents. And five cents was how much it cost to buy one Valentine card to be delivered by a fifth grader.
Unrequited love. By the day before Valentine’s Day, I had collected enough bottles to pay for a large bag of candy hearts and twenty cards to be delivered to Candi.
After covering the inside of the cards with glue, I covered each with candy hearts. The next day I handed off the pile of cards to a fifth grader who would deliver them throughout the day. Each card was addressed to “Candi Samples” but not signed. Wanting to stay anonymous at first, only the last card was signed asking if she would be my girlfriend. The card was to be delivered to her in typing class – her last class of the day.
Love’s reality. Valentine’s Day at school was on a Friday, and it came and went with no answer from Candi about my love card. After a whole weekend for her to think about it, on Monday she still didn’t turn around in her seat and give me an answer.
A week went by, then a month, and finally school let out for the summer without her giving an answer about being my girlfriend. Sometimes love just doesn’t work out like you plan. I tried to forget the incident and was successful at it for two years, until we’d become fifth graders.
Love’s reality check. A week before Valentine’s Day, I once again collected bottles for money. Just like before, I glued and stuck candy hearts inside of cards and just like before, all the cards were unsigned except the last one asking Candi if she would be my girlfriend.
On Valentine’s Day, all the unsigned cards were again delivered, and because we were in the same typing class, I got to see Candi receive the last card just as the bell rang for the end of the school day.
Walking up to me in the hallway, she asked with a smile, “You were the one who sent all those cards to me back in third grade?”
Slowly, I nodded. She said she missed her typing class that day and never got the last card that was signed by me. She had eaten so many of the candy hearts, she’d gotten sick and had to go home early. She never knew who sent all those cards.
She leaned over and gave me a kiss on the cheek, “You’re sweet. Should’ve asked me in third grade. I now have a boyfriend.” As if on cue, Preston Weston III came around the corner and they walked off together.
If never forgotten, childhood memories will follow you and not only enrich the rest of your life, but others who read and hear them as well. Come join us right here as we open our treasure chest each week and share memories from that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]