He might be a grown man but Eoin Higgins still melts when he recalls his first Valentine's Card
I still have the first Valentine's card I ever received. It's archived with a collection of crumbling, hand-written letters and Important Things from forgotten years in an Afternoon Tea biscuit tin I keep at the top of my wardrobe.
Some examples of Important Things: a 23-year-old flyer from a cocktail bar in Corfu (Sex 4 Beach, Come on Here!); four expired credit cards; one note, scribbled on the back of an envelope, wishing me luck at an interview in 1995; a collection of passport photographs charting the journey from oblivious youth to nostalgic middle-age.
I was six when Geraldine (we sat beside each other in Junior Infants) surreptitiously dropped her envelope of love declarations into my schoolbag. She was six-and-a-half. An older woman. I remember finding the card when I got home from school later that day, delighting in her choo-choo-choosing me. I was now a (granted, very small) man of the world, girls (well, at least one) wanted to be with me, boys would surely want to be me. Or so I thought as I devoured the romantic balladry that peppered Geraldine's lovely missive, my voice almost breaking in situ at the very idea of a female admirer.
There are other Valentine's cards in my biscuit tin of romance, but Geraldine's is still the one I treasure most. Not just for the precociousness of the verse contained within, but for the fact there is any verse at all. The art of romantic rhyming seems to have been sadly forgotten in the interiors of subsequent V Day cards. And while a scribbled 'I love you' beneath a generic message from Hallmark is fine, there is nothing as treasurable or meaningful as receiving personalised verse, dedicated to you, from the apple of your eye, on the feast of Saint Valentine.
Take it away, Geraldine ...
Hail Mary full of Grace
Bless Eoin's Handsome face
Keep his hair (sic) free from curls
And keep him away from other girls
Bless his hands big and strong
And help him keep them where they belong
Help him to know, help him to see,
That I love him and he loves me.