By Gregory Keer
Following is a re-post of a kids Valentine’s Day column I wrote when my now 11 year old was in kindergarten. Truth be told, his writing skills still put me to shame.
Valentine’s Day is coming up and I’m already sweating over what my middle child will write on the little cards he’ll pass out to his kindergarten classmates. Most six-year-olds stick to filling out the basic TO: and FROM: blanks that accompany the cuddly bear or fluffy duck illustrations. Not my little Romeo. I figure he’ll write special sentiments to the handful of girls he fancies. I’m picturing lines such as, “I like your soft, silky hair, Jessica” and “I had a wonderful time on our playdate, Anna. Let’s do it again sometime.”
People think I’m exaggerating about Jacob’s love note writing, but he also flecks his daily speech with gold-plated words like “silky” and “wonderful” as if he’s a 45-year-old Casanova. He rarely misses paying a compliment toward females of all ages, from his peers to his teacher. He’s twice written about Mrs. Harris for the “Character Counts” descriptions he is assigned each week. These are, thankfully, sweet rather than sassy as he calls her “the nicest and best teacher in the whole world.” Then, there are the bold comments he makes to the moms he sees at the afternoon pick-up (pun intended). To one of the mothers, I heard him say, “That sweater makes your figure look good,” with an earnest smile that renders more innocent a sentence that sounds like a singles bar come-on.
While I have concerns that he’s a bit more romantically precocious than I’d like, my bigger issues rests in the fact that the little turd is showing me up. Not only does he say things to women that I wish I had thought of when I was an unattached adult, he writes the most charming notes to my wife. At least once a week, sometimes more, he draws colorful designs on index cards and any other paper he can find to go with “Thank you for being such a good Mommy” sentences. He even leaves these notes in clever locations, including Wendy’s laptop bag and under her pillow. I don’t know where he gets this emotive skill, but the bottom line is that I can’t compete with him — and that pisses me off.
Now I’ve got Wendy asking me, “Why don’t you write love notes like you used to?” I could reply with, “I don’t know, honey, why don’t you leave steamy messages on my cell phone anymore?” but her question makes me a little wistful. In our early years, I wrote Wendy all kinds of messages on post-its, stationery, and expensive artsy cards. I scribbled poems, proclamations of my undying love, and occasional ribald jokes. I planted them on the bathroom mirror, in her suitcases, and, yes, under her pillow.
Sure I hack out an occasional adoring e-mail, but these days, she’s lucky if she gets a prewritten card on her birthday. So I wonder, where did my Cyrano-like habit go? Is it there, somewhere buried beneath all the words I have to write on checks to the bank and college letters of recommendations for my students? That’s part of the reason, but another cause for the more shallow word well is that I often feel the pressure to say something new and creative, more indicative of the stage our relationship is in. Yet, I just can’t bring myself to write, “My darling, I long to ravish you amid the laundry piles and sandbox granules in our sheets” or “Our love is like a school backpack — filled with all the homework questions I’m thrilled to be answering with you.”
As rusty as I am with the practice of love note writing, I am actually more appreciative of my son’s suave skills than I am envious of them. He is unafraid of pouring out his feelings and observations into words, not yet aware of the world’s cynicism toward sentimentality. So I encourage him and help him spell “I appreciate you” and “I love you as deep as the ocean.” In turn, he spurs me on to jot a few more notes to my wife than I had been writing. They aren’t all that original or clever, but the mere presence of the letters on the paper makes them real and true.