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James R. Stout

The Lavender Carnation - Happy Valentine's Day!

            When I was growing up Valentine’s Day was celebrated in our schools. All through elementary school we would prepare Valentine’s cards for everybody in our class. Then on the day itself we would tape a brown paper bag to the front of our desk, and everyone would go around and put the cards in the bag per person. It was a big day for us. I always enjoyed reading the cards after getting home that day. The messages were typical and certainly age appropriate. Starting in junior high there was a new thing going on. I forget now who arranged it all, but you could purchase carnations for someone to be given to them on Valentine’s Day. I didn’t buy or receive any carnations in 6th and 7th grade. For one thing, guys just didn’t give other guys a carnation. Girls, on the other hand, could do that and it was completely OK. I didn’t have any secret admirers in those years that would purchase a carnation for me. Boo-hoo!

            But 8th grade was a new experience for me. I may not have been the most popular boy in school, but I had come out of my shell and I was enjoying the attention of some of the girls in school. I still hadn’t even held a girl’s hand yet, but I seemed to have taken to flirting with the opposite sex with ease. In January of 1970 they announced the annual carnation sale. I purchased three carnations to be given to a certain girl that I was infatuated with. But I requested that they be given from a “secret admirer”. The last thing I wanted was to give carnations to this girl and then it somehow or another backfire on me. Backfire as in her laughing at me. I had no expectations of receiving any carnations. I just didn’t think there were any girls who were interested in me.

            It was Valentine’s Day of 1970 and I was more than ready to get to school. I was in two classes with the girl that I had bought the carnations for and I couldn’t wait to see her reaction. I sang the then current hit song, “Ma Belle Amie” by The Tee Set all the way to school that day. I think it was during 4th period that the carnations were scheduled to be delivered. I had English in that period and that certain girl was in my class. I dressed in my coolest outfit that day. I sported a purple button-down shirt with flared sleeves (all the rage), a pair of gray bell bottom pants, and a new pair of Hush Puppies loafers. I got a lot of comments on my garb that day. Mission accomplished!

            The bell rang at lunch and I made my way to my English class. I sat down at my desk and noticed that there was excitement in the air. The carnations would soon be delivered. Finally, about 15 minutes into class the kids who did the delivering of the carnations came into the room with bunches of carnations. I looked over at that girl and she was receiving the three carnations that I had sent. Well, I hoped it was the three from me. She could have gotten more. I deviously asked her who were they from. She had a puzzled look on her face and said, “It’s says secret admirer”.

            I coyly said, “Well, I’m not surprised that you have a secret admirer. Who do you think it is?”

            She said, “I have no idea! But they are beautiful.”

            There was a pink carnation, a red carnation, and a lavender carnation. I had recalled her saying that lavender was her favorite color. Thus, I made sure she got a carnation of that color.

            “I can’t believe one of the carnations is lavender, my favorite color!” she said. “It must be someone who knows me.”

             I was so enthralled with watching her and talking to her about the carnations that I didn’t realize a student was standing there holding a half dozen carnations to give to me. I couldn’t believe it. I looked at the card and now I knew how that girl felt. It said, “Secret Admirer”. Three of the carnations were red and three were white. I didn’t care about the color though. I was just thrilled to get any. Now it was her turn to ask me who they were from and I told her. She laughed and said something about that secret admirer “getting around.” I was dumbfounded by the gesture. Who liked me enough to give me 6 carnations? I just couldn’t believe it.

             Well, Valentine’s Day came and went and soon it was the beginning of April. That certain girl and I had developed a boy-girl friendship. I walked her to classes, we ate lunch together every day, and I would call her on the phone. We would talk until one or the other of our parents told us to get off the phone. By the end of the school year, we were boyfriend and girlfriend. We went to the 8th grade dance together and started holding hands. She was my first girlfriend.

             One day in June I went over to her house to play records and watch a movie on TV. Her older sister was our chaperone! We were listening to a record when she said to me, “I have a confession to make.” I feared the worst. I feared she was going to tell me she liked another boy. Then she said, “Remember those carnations that you got on Valentine’s Day? Well, I was the secret admirer. I sent them to you.” She couldn’t have been more beautiful to me than she was at that moment.

             “Well, I have a confession to make too.” I said. “I was your secret admirer and sent you those three carnations.” Her eyes flew open and then and we both laughed. It was a sweet moment in my innocent days of youth.

             We continued to be a couple for another few months, but after high school got going and we were growing up, we parted ways. Mainly because our interests were taking us down different pathways. I always think of that girl on Valentine’s Day though. That was 50 years ago today. Half a century! I haven’t seen her since running into her when we were both in our early 20’s and both married by then. I hope and pray that she has had a good life. If I could, I would send her a lavender carnation in honor of that day 50 years ago. Hopefully, she has a husband who does much more than that for her today.

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