“If someone gives you a valentine, do you have to give one back?” I asked my mom. She was stirring some pudding for dinner.
“Well, Elizabeth, if you ‘have to give,’ you’re not talking about giving anyway—you’re talking about obligation or repayment. Giving means you do it because you want to, out of love.”
My mom never misses a chance to give a little lecture like that. “I guess I won’t, then, because for sure it wouldn’t be ‘out of love.’ I can’t stand Jeremy Rawlins.”
“But, Elizabeth, isn’t everyone in the class supposed to bring a valentine for everyone else?”
“Yes, but Jeremy told me that he’d made a special valentine for me in family home evening. He’s sure I’m just going to love it.” I couldn’t keep from adding sarcastically, “Sure I will.”
“Family home evening?”
“It’s something they do every week at his house. He’s always talking about what they did during family home evening—how they went to this place or that, how they made something, or how somebody special came over. I get pretty sick of hearing about it.”
“It sounds like fun. So why don’t you like him?”
I had to think about that. I didn’t really know exactly why I didn’t like him. “He’s just so annoying,” I said.
“In what way?” My mom never gives up.
“I don’t know. He’s just so nice, so cheerful all the time.”
Mom stopped stirring. “Cheerful and nice are annoying? We could use more annoying people like that around here.”
I didn’t know how else to explain it. “Well, anyway, I think he’ll just get a regular little dumb valentine from me.”
Mom gazed out the window. I knew she was hatching up something. “You know, we could do that,” she said.
“Have a little family home evening and make some valentines. Not for Jeremy—for our grandparents and each other.”
“No we couldn’t. Family home evening is on Mondays, and this is Tuesday already.”
She looked at me sort of blankly. “Who says it has to be on Monday?”
“I think it’s a rule of his church.”
“Well, since we don’t belong to his church, we can have it whenever we want. Thursday night would be just right. Ask Jeremy a little more about it tomorrow, like what kinds of things they do and how they organize it.”
Great! Now I had to talk to Jeremy. Once my mom gets an idea, she never gives up on it.
By the next day after school, things were getting worse. When Mom walked in from work, I just kept watching the TV and didn’t speak to her.
“Well, let’s not get annoyingly cheerful like that awful Jeremy person,” she said. I think she meant to be funny, but I didn’t laugh. “Thanks to you, he’ll be here any minute,” I grumbled, still not looking at her.
“Jeremy is coming here?” She dropped a big shopping bag on the chair.
“He’s bringing over some book, something he called the Family Home Evening Resource Book.”
“Well, that’s nice.”
Just then the doorbell rang. I let Mom answer it.
“You must be Jeremy. How very nice of you.” I couldn’t hear what he was saying. “Will you come in? Elizabeth is here.”
Oh great, I thought. But I guess Jeremy declined the invitation, because Mom came back by herself. “He has basketball practice,” she explained. “He’s a very pleasant boy.” She sat right down and started looking at the book.
After dinner the next night, she put out all this stuff on the kitchen table—red paper, lace doilies, glue, markers, old magazines, and seed catalogs. We cut and pasted great big valentines for my grandmas and grandpas and for each other. I have to admit, it was kind of fun.
Afterward I cut out a picture of a basketball star, glued it on some red paper, and wrote, “You’re a star!” I thought I might give it to Jeremy the next day. I mean if he gave me a really good one, at least I’d have something to give back and I wouldn’t have to feel stupid.
When I went to bed, my mom was still sitting in the kitchen, reading more in the Family Home Evening Resource Book.
I really had bad news for her when she got home the next night. I waited until she’d hung up her coat and kind of settled down to rest in her favorite chair before starting dinner. She was looking at me, kind of waiting. “I got lots of valentines,” I said.
“Good. I hope you didn’t eat so much candy that you won’t want dinner.”
“Not too much,” I said. “Jeremy gave me a valentine with a wrapped chocolate heart pasted on the front. I ate that.”
“Did you give him yours?”
“Well, yeah. I mean what else could I do? I stuck a few little candy hearts on his. I hope he likes glue.” I laughed.
“What else?” she asked. My mom always knows when you haven’t told her everything. I handed her Jeremy’s valentine. She opened it and read:
“You’re so smart and funny, and I like you a lot.
P.S. Would you and your mother come to our house for a special family home evening next Monday night at 7 P.M.?
P.P.S. If you can, bring a story about one of your ancestors—maybe a grandma or grandpa.”
“How nice,” my mom added. “I’d like to go and see how they do a family home evening.”
“Well, I told you he was annoying—but nice.” I sighed, and then I smiled at her. “I kind of want to go, too,” I confessed.