A Love Letter: 26 Years Later

February 5, 2013 at 1:29 am | Posted in Me | 18 Comments
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Valentine’s Day — it’s a glittering light on the horizon during those dull, murky post-Christmas days of January when snowman wrapping paper that’s 70 80 90! percent off is finally replaced with boxes and boxes of chalky candy hearts.

And doilies. Nothing says Valentine’s Day like a hand-written “Be mine” and a few Snoopy stickers on a pink paper doily. Am I right?

When I was 8, I sat at my kitchen table with a stack of those doilies and a 64-pack of crayons. I wrote a different message for each kid in my third-grade class: UR 2 sweet, Love ya!, Friends 4-ever. It took me 7 episodes of Kids Incorporated to finish.

 

I brought them to school and carefully placed them in 16 decorated shoeboxes with holes cut in the top. I remember because this was also the year I found a love letter in my own foil-covered shoebox. From a secret admirer. Scrawled in freshly sharpened pencil on wide-ruled notebook paper was a poem I can’t remember and this: “With Love, K.S.”

With love! From K.S.! I glanced at the boys in my class with a nonchalance that belied my mere 8 years.

And then I saw him. A cutie named Kyle Scott. He had light brown hair and dimples. All of his permanent teeth had come in. His skin was bronze from soccer season. And? He. Liked. Me. I knew it.

But it wasn’t Kyle Smith. My teacher Mrs. Laughlin confirmed it. Something oozed out of my heart like the saccharin filling of a chocolate-covered cherry.

And then I really knew: Kniles. Kniles Smith.

He looked like you’d imagine a kid named Kniles to look. Short and mousey. Big beaver teeth. A brown bowl cut. He wore thick black glasses and made jokes about meteorology and BASIC. My heart oozed more goopy stuff.

When Mrs. Laughlin nodded her Barbie-blonde mane, I slid into my orange plastic chair. Stunned. Disappointed. Kniles.

I had enough manners to know I shouldn’t show how upset I was. But I just couldn’t help it. I felt like one of those overfilled heart-shaped balloons, the ones that never really look like hearts at all. Pop!

Even the Sixlets taped to the Care Bear and She-Ra valentines I dug from my shoebox didn’t cheer me up.

K.S. Kniles Smith. Pop!

But somewhere between the red-velvet cupcakes and the donning of my safety-patrol badge, I had an epiphany that third-grade Valentine’s Day — perhaps the first of my young Smurf-and-sticker-book-filled life. What a risk Kniles had taken writing me that poem. He had given me his heart, disguised as crooked mixed-case graphite couplets. He didn’t know how I would react. He hadn’t asked for anything in return. He just felt so strongly that the words had to come out, had to be shared, had to be folded into a pull-flap rectangle and dropped in a shoebox, my shoebox.

I saw Kniles Smith that day. Really saw him. Beyond the scrawny, awkward boy who knew more about fractions and food webs than anyone else in third grade, I saw someone with a brawny heart just as big as his brain. A Casanova, a Lord Byron, a Lloyd Dobler — on the inside, where it matters most.

For K.S, wherever you are.

++

This post is part of Momalom’s 2013 Love Fest. See more love letters at Jen and Sarah’s.

18 Comments »

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  1. Stacia, you’re awesome.

    I wish I had been that wise in fourth grade when a less than desirable suitor gave me flowers. And I tossed them down. (Bad young me.)

    To all the Kniles out there with big hearts and the courage to show their love!

  2. You mentioned Lloyd Dobler!🙂 I love that. And all the rest. My valentine, of the Snoopy variety, was A.S. Andrew Shedlock. He drew the Snoopy himself. Swoon.

  3. I totally watched the intro song to Kids Incorporated on YouTube in the middle of reading this post. And paused to recollect the box of folded triangular junior high school notes that I’ve kept all these years.

    I hope my boys–at least one of the three–are of the Lloyd Dobler variety some day. I have to believe that romance ISN’T dead and that it CAN live beyond the third grade. I have high hopes for Kniles. Do you wonder if he remembers writing that note as much as you remember receiving it? I wonder….

  4. So, SO sweet, Stacia! I am crying inside. Because you were (are) so good. Because Kniles was so sweet. Because I was not that kind girl. And because I’m the mom of a boy and I want to know that there are nicer girls than me out there. I’m decades behind you. I was not appreciative of “awkward” boys who liked me, and it really was only awkward boys who liked me. Of course I know better now. Sometimes I wish I had a daughter so I can teach her to look beyond the soccer tans and straight white teeth. Well, I can teach my son this too😉 Just beautiful – loved it!

    Cecilia

  5. Stacia, this is so cool. He was a brave little boy…I love that you share this with us, thanks.🙂

  6. Swoon! I love this! Oh, if every eight year old girl, and every 14 year old girl, and every 36 year old girl could only be as wise as you – to see inside someone else and to celebrate the risk involved in putting yourself and your heart out there into the world. Brava, my friend!

    Also, my maiden name initials were K.S. so maybe secretly that Valentine was from me and not Kniles. (Maybe I bribed Mrs. Laughlin to cover my tracks with a heart-shaped box of Russell Stover chocolates.)

    Also, I will now be singing the theme song to “Kids Incorporated” for the rest of the day. Happy Valentine’s Day to me!

  7. That actually happened to me at about that age and I can remember exactly how I felt at that time. Thank goodness my parents had taught me good manners so no one ever knew I was dissappointed… I cannot remember the boys name. I very much hope that he never knew I was dissappointed… I am thinking I was not quite as wise as you…

  8. So beautiful!! I love your writing.

  9. Wow. What a cool kid (brave!) he was, and you… for realizing what it takes to put yourself out there – at any age.

    (Leave it to the lovely Momaloms to bring us back to these delicious, poignant moments.)

  10. Aww, how sweet. I can see why this is so memorable – it’s not often we get someone to own up to their feelings so sweetly and valiantly like that. I have to say, he sure has good taste🙂 And for you to recognize his courage like you did? Good for you!

  11. Oh my goodness. This made me cry!!! What a brave boy and what a sweet girl. Wonderful story.

  12. Aww, Stacia. Wisdom and kindness at its finest.

    The Kids Incorporated reference took me back! I loved that show.

  13. I LOVE this! What a great read!

  14. Loved this. sweet Kniles…..what a brave soul he was! You made me feel like I was back in 3rd grade!

  15. I really, really love this post.

  16. At 8, I would not have been able to see Kniles or anyone else for who they really were. How nice that you not only could do that but that you still remember it.

    Oh, and I found myself singing “K-I-D-S. Kids Incorporated. We’re gonna have fun!” What memories that brings back. And “Say Anything” was one of my all-time favorite movies. Ah…

  17. What a great story. I absolutely loved this.

  18. I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t particularly remember any Valentine Days from grade school. I remember people and dances, but not the receipt of cards. I remember giving them, but…maybe I’ve blocked it out. I love how you’ve remembered this and the compassion you had for Kniles, even at such a young age.


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