When I was in elementary school, Valentines Day was one of my favorite school days of the year. I remember picking out my design based on what I liked, what it said about me, and which would elevate my likability to the boys in my class—Lisa Frank, Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny. Then, when I got home and opened the selected package, spreading the 4 designs on the table, I would read the messages on the back and make a mental note of which one was the very best. That one would go to the boy I loved.

I was constantly in love. In one of my earliest memories, my sister and I were waiting in the van for my brother to be done with Boy Scouts. We stood in the back of the van, making up a dance and song and screaming it at the top of our lungs, “We love a Boy Scout, a Boy Scout, a Boy Scout. We love a Boy Scout, and his name is Brandon…” We’d then proceed to cycle through, substituting the name of each boy scout in the troop with every new verse.

I felt those love feelings and I felt them deeply—even when I was only 4. In preschool, my report card came home saying, “We’re proud of Mollie. She actually talked to one of the girls a few days ago!”

Often, the subject was my brother’s friend, but I wasn’t too particular. In kindergarten, I had a crush on the bus monitor, Dean, who was nearly out of elementary school. He was dreamy, with a thick swoop of brown hair he wore Bieber style—way before the days of Bieber, obviously. He was ahead of his time. He’d walk the aisles of the bus to make sure no one was using pencils or eating. It made my day when he checked on me and had to look in my direction to do so.

I usually had a crush-of-the-year. In second grade, a new boy moved to the neighborhood next to ours, and I think I loved him the most and longest. His name was Shea, which is exotic in itself, and I think he had moved from someplace exotic, too… somewhere coastal, or mountainous….like California? Or Colorado? Or maybe…Rockford? Rockford had a water park, at least. Either way, he felt new and exciting and had a name that sounded like he could be a character from Saved by the Bell. He wasn’t in my class, but we swapped classes for one subject. When my class went into his classroom, I always fought to be able to sit at his desk. Sometimes I leaned down and kissed it, just because it was practically like kissing him, right? To kiss the place he had just put his hands? (I’m just now remembering…I also had strep throat quite a bit in childhood…) Oh yes, I was bold and forward like this. I made all the moves to be sure my crushes knew I was serious.

One such move was to pick out that most perfect Valentines card. The boys who I liked would get the, “Be Mine, Valentine” with awooga eyes, for sure. I’d sign extra carefully, and seal with a kiss. Before I put the valentine in their bag, I’d give it a secret bonus 2-second kiss for good measure.

Then, when it was opening time, I’d go through all the valentines I had gotten and analyze each for deeper meaning. I’d decide how many boys liked me back based on the messages I’d been given. Jeff, who gave me the Tazmanian Devil with “You’ve got me out of control,” tongue out, surrounded by hearts…totally liked me. Josh, the “Let’s be pals,” Ninja Turtles, not so much. I’d stack the ones who liked me in a pile and add it up. Usually around 5-6 on any given year. I did not lack confidence. Until it came to the one that mattered that particular year. From that person, I’d inevitably get the “I like you,” message, leaving me to ponder it for hours. Did they “like” me? Or did they “like, like” me? Why did I have to endure this torture? Why was he such an enigma? Why, God, why?? The drama of it all was delicious. As you can see, I cherished Valentines Day. It mattered.

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Now I have a 4th grade son. This year, Wally was given an option of the 2 kinds that Target had left when I went in a desperate mad dash a day before the Valentines party: squishy bug window clings and scratch off masks. He chose the bugs, because he wanted one for his room. When I told him (for the 5th time that day) that he had to fill out his cards, he groaned, found the list, sloppily signed all the cards and was done with all 24 in 3 minutes or less. He bagged them up and was ready for the next day.

I think it may be time to put the question of “like” vs. “like like” to bed.

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