My Special Valentine

It wasn't until I heard Skipper's deep, guttural bark, Chrissie and Scruffy's excited yapping, and the three geese honking--triggering the disappearance of the three preschoolers out the door that I realized what time it was. Licking my fingers, then wiping my hands on my apron, I hustled the cake into the cupboard, and the dishes into the sink.

"I wonder if Dean will keep our secret," I said to myself as I rinsed the evidence off the dishes. But I hadn't long to wonder as the children burst through the door, dropping their lunch kits onto the counter, all trying to talk at once.

"I didn't tell, Mommy." I heard the piercing announcement through the din of eight other youthful voices. I smiled at the four-year-old, and stood watching the excitement of the children.

"I got twenty-eight valentines," piped six-year-old Dennis. To him Valentine's Day was a new experience, and clutching them all in his hand at once, he came toward me.

"And I got thirty," announced eight-year-old Dale.

"Look!" I cut in, "Let's all get changed out of our school clothes; then we can all share the valentines. In fact, let's save them 'til after supper. I have a surprise for you."

"Mommy's got a cake," piped up three-year-old Dougie. But his announcement fell on deaf ears as the excited children scrambled into their bedrooms to change their clothes.

It was then I noticed David, also eight, standing still by the door, clutching a Valentine--a favorite, I presumed. His usually smiling, moon-shaped face had a peculiar look on it, but before I could question him, he walked by me to his bedroom to change. I didn't think any more about it until suppertime. I handed the children plastic bags to put their Valentines in.

And now, as the children gathered at the table for the evening meal, the excited pitch of their voices had risen to a crescendo. Daddy wouldn't be home for this special supper, as he was on the bridge crew with the Department of Highways, and was away repairing a washed out bridge.

With the meal cleared away, and all the children in their pyjamas and housecoats, a habit we adopted on chilly winter evenings, we all gathered around the large dining room table. I had told the children at supper that my surprise was: we were going to have a valentine party, and that we would save our dessert until then. The excited children clutched their plastic bags in their hands and assumed their usual mealtime places. I brought out some candy I had saved for the occasion, and set the large heart-shaped cake in the middle of the table.

Now it was time for us all to share the valentines the kiddies had gotten from their friends at school. They pulled the cards from the plastic bags and set them on the table in front of them. It was then I noticed that David had only one card in front of him. My heart nearly broke, but now was not the time for questioning. There would be time for that later.

When it was David's turn to share his valentine, that strange look reappeared on his face. He turned the card over, and his usual smile returned to his face as he read, "To David, My Special Valentine. From your Teacher, Miss Waters." The card was not anything out of the ordinary. It was just one of the run-of-the-mill valentine cards, but to David it was special. After he read it he hugged it to his heart. It was the only one he had received.

There was nothing wrong with David. That is not why he did not have friends, nor why he did not receive any valentines. He was not shunned by his peers because he was a trouble-maker. He was not shunned because he was extra stupid or extra smart. It was not because of any obnoxious behaviour, nor because he was a smart alec. No. It was just because he was a **Native Indian. Our children were all foster children, and they were all mixed-blood, Native Indian children. All except for David. He was a pure Native Indian from the Indian reservation in Atlin, British Columbia.

My heart was breaking just now, breaking for a sweet little boy who was shunned by his peers because he was different. I went over beside him, looked at his valentine, and said, "Oh David, that is SO special. Let's put it on the fridge so that we can look at it every day, for as long as you want."

I decided that the best thing to do was to make a big thing out of what he had, rather than showing him pity because of how much less he had than the others. And the three little ones saved the day. In unison they said, "Let's have the cake now."

Relieved that the crisis was over. I gave David a big hug, and told him that he could pass out the valentines we all had made for each other. And David was equal again. He was amongst his friends and his family, where there was no prejudice, just a lot of love.

** NOTE: This story happened in the sixties. The attitude toward Native Indians (or First Nations, as they have chosen to be called now), has changed in the past 30 years. Also, now there is a much more ethnical mixture in the present-day schools, than there was when this took place.

~ Helen Dowd ~

[ by Helen Dowd Copyright © 2004, ( -- submitted by: Helen Dowd ]


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