Be my Valentine?

By Helen Row Toews

February 7, 2018 1:59 PM

The day of love is nigh, or as the French might say, “La jour de l’amour est proche.”
I have to admit I’m a hopeless romantic and sucker for all sappy sentiment it involves: red roses, cards, glittery gifts, sumptuous dinners and chocolate.
Valentine’s Day is here, and to celebrate, I’ve decided to share a timeless tale of unbridled passion from my past. Hang on.
It all began one crisp autumn day as my first month of Grade 1 got underway at Marshall School.
Not the juicy sort of intro you were expecting right? Anyway, back to memory lane ... it was recess on the playground.
A small slip of a boy scurried from Mrs. Ranger’s classroom as the bell rang, headed out of the doors for some simple, uncomplicated fun.
He skipped gleefully across the volleyball court to frolic with his equally tiny friends who stood on the other side.
Unfortunately, it had rained heavily the previous night and the court consisted, primarily, of clay.
His chums had not traversed the court, they’d gone around it, and were now watching aghast as their comrades sneakers sunk deeply into the sticky muck.
The boy found himself lodged tight and sinking fast. His name was Albert Hoover.
“HELP!” he wailed in a high-pitched shriek of anguish. “Somebody save me.”
Scrawny arms flailed wildly in the air above his head as he struggled in vain.
His fickle friends huddled on the nearby shore, all similarly attired in the canvas shoe of the era and unwilling to face the wrath of their mothers upon returning home.
“I’ll get teacher,” yelled one, sprinting for the school.
The others milled about in an uneasy group, evidently waiting for their friend to be sucked into the nether-world beneath his disappearing feet.
It was at this point that two bullies arrived on the scene.
They were big strapping farm boys from an older grade – wearing rubber boots. They waded in and made their way toward Albert, enjoying his feeble attempts to extricate himself from the mire.
“What you gonna do now, hey peewee?” one questioned poor Albert, who ceased his struggles and now stood frightened and alone.
“Why don’t you run home to mommy?” mocked the other, giving the little fellow a push which tumbled him into the mud.
He began to weep.
The boys towered over him laughing, as a friend and I happened to walk over the rise next to the court.
We took in the situation at a glance and ran to help, but she didn’t have boots on.
Thanks to my father’s insistence in properly dressing for the weather – I did.
I slogged out to where my fellow student sat in desperate trouble and grasped his hands to haul him up.
“Whadya think you’re doing?” bawled the first bully, reaching out to knock me over too. Always a girl of few words, I turned and soundlessly shoved him as hard as I possibly could.
Plainly, this form of retaliation was unexpected from a small girl in pig-tails and manure-encrusted gum boots. He toppled over like a felled tree. SMACK.
I twisted round to face the friend, but he was already backing away.
Ignoring the bully’s plaintive whining, I focussed my efforts on Albert whose tears had miraculously dried with the defeat of his tormentor.
“That was really neat,” he whispered in awed tones.
He gazed at me with a shining light in his reddened eyes and burgeoning love in his pint-sized heart.
Pulling him with difficulty onto the grassy verge, I took a moment to turn and ponder the fate of Albert’s oppressor.
His wild thrashing and loud hollering were impeding rescue and I thought momentarily that we could well be witnessing his last moments on this good earth.
Slowly, he appeared to be sinking from view. I reflected on similarities between this and a story I’d heard recently of one Sammy Fox who met a nasty end in a pool of quicksand.
Then, glancing up, I saw teacher approaching. A formidable sight for a girl who had recently hurled someone to their death in a bog.
However, after hearing the facts, Mrs. Ranger was swift to praise and then to educate the assembled crowd on the perils of mud, and of course bullying.
Never a good mix. Albert was as right as rain once he was sluiced off under a tap and mother arrived with clean trousers.
Even the bully lived to see another day.
This happy ending brings me back to the point of my involved tale.
As the day progressed I could feel Albert’s eager eyes following my every move.
Finally, at last recess, he made his move.
“Helen,” he said in a quavering voice, reaching for my hand with a sweaty paw. “Will you marry me?”
Details past this point are sketchy. I seem to recall snatching my hand back with a hasty acceptance, feeling it was now my duty to keep the boy safe.
Clearly, he thought so too. Albert Hoover how have you made it through life without me? Happy Valentine’s Day.

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