Short Stories by Pat Nelson
A Big Heart
February 8, 2013
By Pat Nelson - Reprinted with permission
The decorated heart-shaped boxes of Valentine's Day candy set my teenage imagination running. Maybe someday, I thought, someone would be so in love with me that he would buy me one of those big, beautiful red hearts decorated with ribbons and lace.
Store displays were gigantic and attractive. There would be one or two huge hearts in the display, then many boxes that measured about a foot across and even more that were about 6" wide. Then there were some little 3 inchers, and a pile of boxed conversation hearts at the bottom.
My dream was to receive one of those beautiful 12" hearts. The biggest one, I thought, would only be given if the man was making up for some kind of indiscretion, and the little ones must be for casual relationships that really didn't mean much, or for parents to give to their kids. To me that 12-inch heart signified true love.
I found one of my teenage “true loves" at a dance at the YMCA. His blue eyes matched his baby-blue sweater. It was puppy love at first sight. I invited him to the Sweetheart's Tolo, a dance at my high school. He accepted. We went to the movies a few times, and then it was Valentine's Day. I bought him a nice card and wondered if he would show me how much he loved me. Was I just a conversation-heart kind of girlfriend? I hoped not.
On Valentine's Day, he arrived with the 12" heart, filled with luscious chocolates. Fifty years later, I'm still trying to rid them from my fat cells. It wasn't one of the red hearts, always the prettiest boxes in the stores, but rather one with baby-blue and white checks, a blue plastic rose, and a fancy ribbon.
Days later, while there were still chocolates in the box, he started dating another girl and I had to take his best friend to the Sweetheart's Tolo. I spent the night sobbing to his friend about my lost love.
I kept that pretty heart-shaped box for many years, until the blue checks on top had faded to a light gray. Things might have gone better if he had given me the red heart-shaped box, I thought.
A few years later, I married and moved to San Diego with my husband, who was in the Navy. I flew home on Valentine's Day because he was ready to ship out for nine months. I clung to his arm as we walked through the airport before my flight. Red heart-shaped boxes filled the shop windows. If my husband truly loved me, I thought, he would surely buy me a heart-shaped box of chocolates. I was so sad that he was leaving, and suddenly that sadness spilled over into whining because he hadn't bought me a box of chocolates.
He released my grip on his arm and walked into a store. I knew he would come back with the 12" red heart, the one I could place in my room and look at to remember his love for me during the long months ahead. Shortly, he came out of the store and presented me with a 6" red heart, very plain, with no flowers, ribbons, or lace on the top. It was a red heart filled with chocolate, and I'm sure it was the least expensive 6" heart in the store. I was crushed. Tears poured down my cheeks, partly because he was leaving and partly because this was not a dream, it was reality, and in reality a man has to watch his money when he doesn't earn much.
I boarded the plane, my face streaked with tears, that dear little heart-shaped box pressed next to my heart. I fed chocolate to my sadness all the way home.
Now, many years later, I wouldn't dream of wishing for one of those calorie-filled, overpriced boxes. My love and I just exchange cards. But the wishes inside those cards are as sweet as the chocolate in a 12" red heart.
Pat Nelson, writer and editor, lives and writes in Woodland, Washington. In 2012, Publishing Syndicate's Dahlynn and Ken McKowen, who co-authored Chicken Soup for the Soul books for ten years, contracted with Nelson to co-create Not Your Mother's Book . . . on Parenting, scheduled for release April 30, 2013. Since then, Nelson has signed up to co-create two more of Publishing Syndicate's books, NYMB on Grandparenting and NYMB on Working for a Living. There are nearly 40 books in the Not Your Mother's Book anthology series, filled with nonfiction stories—often humorous and sometimes edgy— by people like you. For more information, submission guidelines, and to submit your story, see www.publishingsyndicate.com. Nelson's work has appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Daily News, and Not Your Mother's Books . . . on Being a Woman, on Being a Stupid Kid, and on Dogs.
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