Sweetheart Valentines

We were restless first graders, squirming in our seats. Anxious to get the party started, we sprang to action when our teacher told us to gather our supplies.

Taking out an old shoe box brought from home, we cut a slot into the box top so the Valentine cards could be slipped in. I don’t recall injuries, which is amazing since a room of awkward, excited kids were using scissors. Next, we wrapped the box in craft paper, then decorated it with construction paper, ribbons, crayons, paper doilies, and glitter.

Hearts were made by folding a piece of construction paper in half, then cutting half a heart along the fold. When opened up, it made a whole, symmetrical heart – something I could not do otherwise. Paper doilies were glued on in one piece and adorned with construction paper hearts, or cut into pieces and scattered about the box. Crayons added further decoration, as did a squeeze of glue sprinkled with glitter. I can only imagine the mess left for the janitors to clean up later that afternoon.

Once finished, we’d proudly display the boxes on our desks. Taking out the Valentine cards we’d brought from home, we’d walk among the desks, slipping one into each box. Everyone received one, even the snot-nosed kid who was always picking on me. Most were simple Valentine cards purchased in packages. Sometimes though, we’d receive something extra. There might be a sucker inserted into holes that pierced the paper or, if we were lucky, receive a box of Sweetheart® candies.

The heart-shaped candy wafers came in small, rectangular boxes. A window on the front gave a view of the candies, while the back had space for writing the name of who it was To and From. Valentine Day sayings were printed on the pastel-colored candies such as Be Mine, Love You, and Kiss Me. Easy to chew for a quick sugar-rush, you could also suck on them for a few minutes and savor their tangy sweetness as they melted on your tongue. Since there were other goodies to enjoy at the party I usually saved mine to eat on the way home, or for a treat the next day.

Sweetheart® candies are still around, but with a few changes. A 2010 formula change produced a softer candy with more vivid colors and a more intense and sour flavor. The printed sayings have evolved as well and now include Text Me, You Rock, and Tweet Me, reflections of the times. It doesn’t matter to me how they look and taste now. Seeing the boxes of Sweetheart candies takes me back to my school days when Valentines was a day of awkwardly delivering Valentine cards to classmates, hurrying back to my desk to see what I had received, and savoring Sweetheart® candies.

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