I posted a version of this story on Father’s Day a while back, but today is both my mom and dad’s birthday – and I wanted to share it again…
My dad was the school superintendent in the village where we grew up. His office was in the junior high school, which was both convenient and mortifying for me, in turns. Convenient because he’d carry my baritone saxophone into school on the mornings I had jazz band. Mortifying because if I got in trouble for talking in study hall, he knew before lunchtime. But something else happened in those junior high years, too — something I didn’t figure out until I had grown into a less gawky, slightly less nerdy high school girl. My dad was my secret admirer.
The student council at my junior high school had renamed Valentine’s Day “Carnation Day.” In the weeks leading up to it, you could pay a dollar to send a carnation to the person of your choice, and it would be left on his or her desk before homeroom that morning. The result was a very colorful and extraordinarily visible display of relative popularity. There were some kids who walked in and sat down at empty desks every Valentine’s Day morning. It’s a wonder they kept showing up. There were other kids whose desks were so laden with flowers there was no room for a pencil.
It was a great source of angst. I worried. But I didn’t have to. In my three years of junior high school, my desk was never without a carnation on Valentine’s Day. Some years, there was more than one. But always, there was one.
The card was either signed “from a secret admirer” or not signed at all. My friends thought it made me seem exotic and mysterious. I think it was freshman year when I figured it out. Every year, he heard the student council’s morning announcement and made the long walk from district offices at one end of the building to the cafeteria at the other end to order my flower.
Happy Birthday, Mom & Dad! And Dad… thanks for the carnations when I needed them most.