At our refi-closing this week, I looked down at the bottom of my coat and saw a slip from a fortune cookie attached to it. I peeled it off and read it:
“You have an iron will, which helps you succeed in everything.”
Sophie had actually pulled it from a cookie a couple months ago. I saved it because, well, let’s just say I think the right person got that cookie.
As we walked out of the office, I showed Kevin the fortune. He glanced at it and said, “accurate.”
“No, not for me, this was Sophie’s. I was going to frame it.”
“Still accurate,” said Kevin.
I was going to forgo homemade valentines this year.
We’ve always done it in the past, getting doilies and construction paper and rubber stamps that say “love.” But this year, grandma had taken Sophie out to the dollar store to purchase a batch, and given that life has been rather hectic of late, I decided to take the short cut. After all, she had two classes to give to—my mother’s and our neighborhood school, which amounted to no less than 40 cards.
But, of course, the day before Valentines Day, while staying with my mother, I realized that I had left the boxes of cheap scratch-and-sniff Valentines back at our house. I could see right where I left them, on the microwave cart, where I kept all her art supplies.
Damn it. Looked like we’d be making our own, again.
A friend, who also did homemade Valentines, accurately described her kitchen as a sweatshop. We formed an assembly line, Sophie and I. I drew hearts (because she didn’t like the way they came out when she did it), she decorated them, addressed them, and wrote “Love, Sophie” at the bottom.
Oh, and we were doing this on the morning of the day that she would have to distribute them to her friends. My mother used to call me “last-minute Melissa.”
At 9:00, we were only half-way done and were a half-an-hour late for school.
“Soph, we gotta go,” I said, packing things up.
“But mom! I’m not finished!” cried Sophie, trying to wrestle the markers away from me. She was determined to make all eighteen.
“I’m sure grandma will let you finish them when you get there.” And that morning, while the other children colored and played in the housekeeping corner, and were elbows deep in the sand table, Sophie dutifully finished her cards.
“She’s been at it all morning,” my mother told me, at lunch, impressed with her fortitude. Knowing Sophie, this did not surprise me.
What did surprise me was that when we returned home that evening that she insisted on making homemade Valentines for her other class. For the second time that day, Sophie set to work. This time she had 22 to complete. She started flagging on the 10th, falling out of her chair and whining.
I stood over her, the evil taskmaster, “You have to finish them. We can’t give them out to half the class and not the other half." I paused, "Don’t make them quite so elaborate," I suggested.
She was tailoring each one to what she thought her friend would appreciate.
“But mom! I can’t! My hand is tired! You do them.”
“They can’t be in my handwriting Soph. I can help you color them, but I can’t write the kids' names.”
“Okay,” she acquiesced, but she balked at my color choices. “You have to give the boys blue and green, mom, not purple.” God forbid we should give a boy a purple valentine.
And so it went. Sophie occasionally flinging herself on the floor and protesting that she was done, and me insisting that she get back up and finish the job.
We manufactured the 22nd valentine around 8 that night. I hoped that we had accurately reconstructed the class list from memory and didn’t miss anyone.
“Look, Soph! We did it!” I stacked them in a neat pile and slipped them into a plastic bag.
“My friends are going to love them,” Sophie nodded, proud.
I have to admit: it did feel good to have done this. To have personalized each one, color coordinating them according to sex. They weren’t anything fancy, but they were sincere, the products of two iron wills.