My Lovliest Valentine

IT was Valentine's Day. I sat in my city apartment and nostalgically recalled the groups of children I had taught in a country school, as they gathered with shining eyes and eager voices about the beautiful valentine box they had helped make bulging with valentines. Always, one of my own children was among this group at my desk before the bell rang for school to commence.

I smiled as I remembered the knocking on our door Valentine nights, and the sound of running footsteps which told us the children had placed their valentines, "To Mother and Dad," on the porch and were scampering to hide behind the two large lilacs, one on each side of the house, to watch our delight as we received them. With mellowed tenderness, I recalled the time, years ago, when I tried to pick up the valentine left us by our first-born son--only to find he had painted his heart on the porch with colored chalk. I smiled even more tenderly as I remembered his boyish laugh of triumph echoing through the bare lilac limbs at my repeated attempts to pick it up before I finally fathomed the reason I could not.

"Valentine Day in the city can never be as delightful as in the country," I said to no one in particular, for I was alone.

I was recalled from my memories by a gentle knock on my door. For a moment I even wondered if it could be someone leaving a valentine. My smile broadened as I said to myself, "Don't get foolish ideas, here in the loneliness of this city, and in an upstairs apartment at that."

I walked across the room and leisurely opened the door, to find no one there, closed it again, and sat down to read.

Was I dreaming or did I hear velvet footfalls in the hall? Again came a gentle knock, then soft, but quickened footsteps retreating.

Eagerly I opened the door, this time to catch a glimpse of a bright skirt just disappearing around the corner of the hall leading to the stairway. The unmistakable fragrance of spring came to me. Then I saw them--a bouquet of a dozen yellow daffodils laughing up at me, thumb-tacked to the outside of my door, and hanging from them in their cellophane wrappings were two large chocolate hearts.

Quickly I went to the head of the stairs, and there stood a radiant young girl much like a daffodil herself with her yellow curls and sun-shiny smile. She was fairly bursting with the joy of her errand. Mine was the twelfth place she had quietly visited, leaving the cheery daffodil valentines, as gifts of a lovely, gracious lady in her eighties who had found, during her lifetime of service, that the sun she gave to others also warmed her own soul.

Now, whenever I get a little homesick for country joys, I recall my loveliest valendint and know the delightful friendliness of city hearts.