And Diabetics get Laxatives

“You’ll have to forgive me.” says my 85 year old Nana on the phone. I couldn’t go out to get you a Valentine’s Day card.

I wince at the words. She tells me that it is hard for her to get out now. Now that she is old. Wince. Now that she uses a walker. Now that my grandfather is dead and she has no one to drive her to the store. Wince.

“Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter.” I tell her. I mean it. I didn’t send a card to her. Is my Nana my valentine? Am I her valentine? I don’t want to be my Nana’s valentine.

I reassure her that she is forgiven for her slight. I just want to stay her granddaughter. I don’t need to be her valentine.

I remember making these homemade mailboxes for the class Valentine’s Day party every year in elementary school. I would use an old empty tissue box. It was decorated with red construction paper and nearly an entire roll of scotch tape. Then I would cut a crude hole on the top by which my Valentine’s cards would be deposited.

“Don’t leave anyone out,” the teacher reminded us as she passed out a ditto that for the remainder of elementary school served as the Valentine’s Day doctrine. Handwriting legible, sign every card, bring in your pretty mailbox the day before the big day, cards to be distributed during the Valentine’s Day party. Make sure you have a valentine for everyone.

Even at age 6, I knew Jerry Raio would never be my Valentine. I knew Caroline Johnson and her friend Mary Alice Halley didn’t think I was a Cutie Pie, and short of the three other people in my reading group, none of the people in my class were my friends. As I sat at my desk, opening up the little perforated cards, I searched the room to see if anyone liked my valentine; the valentine I double checked to make sure I signed, the valentine I made sure everybody got.

The greatly anticipated party consisted of passing out our cards, opening up our home made mailbox, one pink frosted cupcake, a Dixie cup with two swallows of warm Hi C fruit punch and a box of Conversation Hearts.

After eating the dry cupcake and swallowing a warm swig of Hi C, I plunged my pink frosted hand into my homemade mail box. I opened each card and tried to make out the scribbled name at the bottom of each card. Several of the cards portrayed a smiling cartoon of a caterpillar. The card asked the recipient to be their valentine. It was rhetorical and I understood, even at 6 years old, that this question required no answer. After sorting and counting my valentine cards from people who would not choose me as a friend, I opened my little box of conversation hearts. I sorted them by color, leaving the white ones for last. They were the least appetizing as I couldn’t imagine what flavor was white. In my 6 year old mind, at least pink could be cherry, purple could be grape, yellow, lemon and green lime. I never noticed that they all had the same flavor and so long as it was candy, I chose to ignore the chalk like texture and rock like consistency. Before dropping each one into my mouth, I would read the printed messages stamped indiscriminately on the surface of the heart. Be Mine, You are so Nic, Be Min, e Mine, Oh you Cuti, Love yo. I was left to fill in the missing letters.

The summer before I entered the 6th grade, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes. In the time it took to complete a summer camp physical, my sentence was handed down. No more birthday cake, no more trick or treating, no more conversation hearts.

In the coming years, Valentine’s Day became a kind of Christmas for Jews. I knew it was celebrated as evidenced by the red envelopes at the card store, but like a Jew at Christmas, I wasn’t getting a Whitman Sampler and singing songs around the Yule log. The closest I came to a Whitman Sampler was in junior high when my boyfriend of two weeks gave me The Russell Stover Sampler.

Unlike its highbrow relations, The Russell Stover box of chocolates did not include the map. Thus my only experience with that box of candy was taking a bite out of nearly every chocolate in the box in search of one that wasn’t filled with some mysterious cream filling.

On the first year of my first great love, I got a dozen roses and a box of sugar free chocolates for Valentine’s Day. The celebration included dinner out, professions of love and an evening of stomach cramps that left me doubled over on the floor of my great love’s bathroom for the rest of the night.

The stomach cramps remained a mystery until later the following day when I noticed a conspicuous warning on my box of Valentine’s Chocolates. “Excessive consumption of this product may have a laxative effect.”

In the years to follow, many well-meaning suitors gave me the gift of cramps. No matter the chocolates, they always looked as tempting as their real counterparts, however be it five chocolates, or two, anything more than one of those awful tasting confections, inevitably resulted in a laxative effect.

Notice to all future suitors; send me the flowers, spare me the cramps.

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