We’re a Valentine family. We have hearts and sentiments all over the house from years of Valentine gifting. Donny & I have home made hearts hanging from every corner of our awesome four poster colonial style bed. They never get put away. They’re just too special.
Step back for a moment to late 1968. I was a working girl dating a few really nice guys but nothing special going on there. I was also attending and teaching Sunday school at the Church of Our Saviour, a tiny episcopal church miles from my downtown apartment. The choir director and I had casually dated and I liked the church so stayed after the relationship fizzled. Donny landed at the same little church because he was interested in becoming an episcopal priest after his plans to be a pilot in the Navy got permanently sidetracked when he developed diabetes while at the Naval Academy.
The priest, John Upton, had a young family and his adorable wife, Becky, decided to play match maker with Donny and myself unbeknownst to us. She paired us up at the Christmas bazaar and invited us over to the rectory situated directly behind the church as often as she could without showing her hand.
For New Year’s Eve Becky decided to have a family style evening. She invited me. “Will Donny be there?” I asked. By this time he had my attention but I was not sure if I had his. I had an opportunity to go to a fraternity party at the University of Richmond and wanted to be certain my evening would not be wasted hanging out with families. Becky said she would check and call me back. She did. He would. And so I went. We played games, chatted, rung in the New Year and shortly after that most folks started leaving. There were just a handful of us left when Donny took leave. We all gathered at the door to say goodbye and Happy New Year. He bid farewell to everyone, but me. He turned to go and then turned back, “Oh, goodbye Sandy.” Subtly at it’s best.
Still I had a hunch he would call me. After a few days with no call, I had a date I didn’t want to cancel but, gasp, I’d be away from my phone. I pondered what would happen if Donny did call and didn’t get an answer. He won’t call again, he’ll figure he tried, I reasoned. I took the phone off the hook.
I cut my date short, dashed home and placed the phone back on the hook. Minutes later it rang. “Hello?”
“It’s me, Donny. You sure talk a lot on the phone.”
“Yeah, I do sometimes.” Score! He asked me out, took me to see Funny Girl and bought me BUTTERED popcorn. It was the first buttered popcorn I had ever had. Such class. Such style.
The next week he took me to the Jefferson Hotel for dinner because I said I had always wanted to eat there. The tables were set up on the balcony over looking the lobby with it’s stunning Gone With The Wind staircase. I was in love.
Valentine’s Day approached. “Sandy, let’s make Valentines,” my advertising cubicle neighbor Tuppy said. She was a newly wed. I had never made a Valentine. It sounded like fun. Tuppy and I bought supplies from the craft department and set to work. We pasted, we cut, we glued. And then we got to the inside part. What to write. Donny & I were newly dating. I finally settled on this.
I planned to cook dinner for him and then give him my homemade Valentine. It all went perfectly until I proudly and shyly handed him my hours of work creation. He looked. He hesitated. “This is so special. I truly love it. But that’s not how you spell my name.”
I was crushed. I had never seen his name printed anywhere unless it was Donald. But it didn’t matter. Valentine lovers we became and all time lovers we are.