When I was in the second grade, I fell in love with Maggie Argo. Maggie Argo had golden hair and freckles and wore pretty print dresses. When she smiled, the whole room lit up, and I would feel a sort of warm flush across my cheeks.

 

Though I wasn’t really sure what love was supposed to feel like, and didn’t really admit even wanting to feel it, something nonetheless would wrap itself around my aching heart every time this little girl came near me. When I looked at her, an emptiness inside me filled. Maggie Argo took my breath away.

 

For what seemed like a long time in my short life, I had been looking for an opportunity to let the little girl with the golden hair know how I felt. The fear of doing so could never quite squelch the burning need; it seemed that I would literally burst if I didn’t at least let her know how important it was for me to be near her. Fall had passed, and Thanksgiving and Christmas…time gone by, and still I had not summoned the needed courage.

 

Then, I became aware of the perfect opportunity. And so for weeks I had been anticipating the day when all the students would write Valentine’s Day cards to one another. I had come to learn that Valentine’s Day was about Love, whatever that was, a day when people who cared for each other would do things to show their amorous feelings. My dad always gave my mom candy, and usually red roses. I remember her eyes lighting up as he would come through the door carrying the crimson blossoms in a glass vase. I wanted to make Maggie Argo feel like that.

 

Having resigned myself to the mysterious feelings within my skinny chest, I felt like Valentine’s Day would be a perfect chance to show my true feelings for Maggie Argo. I would write her a special card, and inside I would confess my undying affection. This was a most scary thought indeed. But not as scary, somehow, as the thought of going through life without her ever knowing how I felt.

 

The night before the big day, I spent a long time thinking about the right words to say. My mom bought a big bag of somewhat generic cards for my sisters and me. They had all sorts of corny sayings and cute drawings. There were zoo animal-themed cards (“Have a Grrrrreat! Valentine’s Day”), space alien cards (“I would fly to the moon for you, Valentine”), and even talking vegetables and fruits (“You drive me bananas, Valentine!”). I finally decided on something more intimate, with two attractive vegetables staring deeply into one another’s eyes—“Lettuce Be Valentines!”   I thought Maggie Argo would like that one.

She and I had never really talked before, because each time I attempted to speak to her my tongue would swell, and I couldn’t swallow. If I made any sounds at all, they were mostly unintelligible, and Maggie Argo would simply smile that paralyzing smile, and walk away. I felt that the undeniable humor and wit embodied by the two heads of iceberg lettuce wrapped in an embrace would be the ice breaker, so to speak, allowing my confidence and cleverness to finally become known. I would let the card speak for me. After much tortured consideration, on the inside of the card I wrote these words:

I THINK YOU ARE THE NICEST GIRL IN THIS SCHOOL.

 

I had given the whole thing a great deal of thought. The words seemed right; not too assertive, but clearly holding deeper meaning. I put the card into its envelope, and placed it near my bed. Lying awake that night, I opened and reread the note many times before falling asleep, imagining Maggie Argo’s life-giving smile. I felt sure that this time, her smile would be just for me.