The Stormy Recess of Broken Hearts

I remember my worst Valentine’s Day ever in Madison, Wisconsin as cold, damp and wintery. The night before, I decorated my shoe box with construction paper hearts, rick rack, and sequins much like the other girls in my 5th grade class. My mother had bought paper valentines which I signed, picking the best ones for my closest friends and a boy that I liked.

Earlier that year, a few of us had been switched from one classroom to another. After taking my seat, I noticed a dreamy-eyed, brown haired boy named Bob sitting at the desk in front of me. He must have noticed me too because later in the week, he turned around and asked, “Hey. Do you want this?” He referred to a new invention at the time, the mechanical pencil.

“Oh. That must have been expensive! I better not.” I realized that my reaction was a mistake when I saw his crestfallen expression.

One of the more experienced girls in the class, Ellen, who had been rumored to have kissed several boys said, “Susie. I think he bought it for you.”

It was too late. The moment was over, but the attraction continued.

Our house was kitty corner from the school parking lot which also served as the playground. Our kitchen gave me ample opportunity to gaze out the window to watch the kids walking home from school. I was usually home before most of them. After class that day, my heart leapt when I noticed Bob walking by my house on the opposite side of the street. I couldn’t believe my luck. “He must live nearby,” I thought.

During those few months leading up to Valentine’s Day, we often exchanged glances and then quickly looked away.

When the day arrived, I was giddy with excitement. We passed out our Valentine cards, placing them into the slots of the makeshift mail boxes we had made. I couldn’t wait to see what Bob gave me. I fanaticized that that he would pick out a card with a gorgeous red heart and would sign it, “Love, Bob.”

The recess bell rang before we could open our envelopes. We formed a line and exploded onto the playground. I’m sure our teacher hoped we would work off some of that pent up energy.

I was playing tag with the girls when Bob’s friend Kevin sauntered up.

“Bob wants to go out with you,” he shouted so everyone could hear.

 I felt my cheeks burn and imagined they matched some of the scarlet wool sweaters my classmates wore for the occasion. I turned to my girlfriends who begged me to say yes. “Okay,” I responded, feeling all at once a little bit older. News of our declared relationship  flew around recess like a blizzard and soon everyone swirled around us. Bob who was on the opposite side of the playground from me, disappeared as the boys encircled him. All of the girls spun around me in a frenzy of attention and for a few minutes I was the most popular girl in the class.

As soon as my heart had begun soaring, it plummeted back down to earth when I looked over and saw the throng around Bob had begun to push him towards me to give me a kiss. My stomach flipped. They chanted in unison, “Now we know!”

Without asking anyone for emergency advice, I said to one of my new minions, “Tell Bob I want to break up with him.” Right after my messenger left my side, the bell rang. The storm subsided and everyone ran back inside the school. Bob wouldn’t look at me. I blinked back tears. When I slunk back into the classroom, Ellen turned toward me and with an eye roll, said it all. I was such a loser. Greater than my fantasy Valentine card, Bob had put his heart out there for me and I had stepped on it.

Even though I felt like I didn’t deserve it, I looked forward to seeing which card he had picked out for me. When I opened up it up, I realized that like most of the boys, he hadn’t personally addressed one to me. My heart sank again. He had slipped his generic Valentine into the slot of my box knowing that he would declare his love during recess.

The rest of the day crept by. I wanted the interminable school day to end. I was glad it was Friday and I wouldn’t have to face my classmates again for a couple days.

When I arrived home from school, I burst into tears.

“What’s the matter?’ My mom asked.

Between sobs, I explained and then glanced outside. Bob ran by my house, but this time with his head down.  It was over. Never again would he speak to me even though I often gazed at him through my kitchen window.

Our love affair had lasted less than one recess and it would be years before I would have another, but I have to admit that ever since the 5th grade, I have had a fondness for mechanical pencils.


 Happy Valentine’s Day!

Do you have a Valentine’s Day story?

Do you look forward to it or dread it?

91 thoughts on “The Stormy Recess of Broken Hearts

Add yours

  1. my daughter was confused and upset when a boy asked to be her boyfriend in grade 4 or 5. she thought she had to say ‘yes’ because she’d been asked (all her girlfriends said so) but she didn’t even like him

    Once mom explained how this thing worked, she broke off with him and went on with her life. she learned that lesson well – she didn’t date until she was in grade 12.
    thx for a good post


    1. That’s great that you explained it to your daughter. My next boyfriend wasn’t until the summer before freshman year in high school, but I still didn’t feel all that comfortable until a couple of years later!
      Thanks Louise.


  2. I really wish I couldn’t identify with this story as much as I do. I was in the sixth grade when I found out a girl in my class liked me–the prettiest girl in class, no less. I was so dumbfounded I made her sit down and tell me why she liked me. She suffered the indignity and the next day sent a message through my best friend that she no longer wished to “go around” with me. This was all well and good–I stayed home from school that day with an upset stomach brought on by the fear of having an actual girlfriend. To this day, I’m not sure I can claim that we ever were “together.”


  3. Raymundo handed me a crumbled, quasi-folded small piece of paper as our 4th grade class filed out to the playground. Ray was the shyest boy in our class…and, until that moment, I didn’t even know he could write.
    I unfolded the note. In very large penciled lower case letters it said,
    “i love you.”
    I looked up and to my horror he was standing next to me. Smiling. Waiting.
    So. I gathered all my 4th grade girlie social skills together and…hit him.

    The end.


    1. Obviously my pain and anguish over this 4th grade physical violence, and especially from me…is still too much to bare. I had to tell you not once, but twice, which makes me seen twice as violent…which I’m not. (See small print disclaimer on Physical Violence para. on birth certificate. Attached.)

      Although I do feel much better having repeated myself, be assured I’m over that 4th grade experience. I’ve moved on.

      However….this repeated telling experience has brought clarity. Perhaps we ALL should tell our stories twice…in a row?

      Move over Dr. Phil.

      Perhaps not.


    1. You must have overcome your fear of dating at some point David! Good thing~
      I used to tell my kids that if someone from the opposite sex was mean to them, it meant that they “liked” them. I remember the confused looks on their faces….Hahaha!


  4. Awesome Valentines Day post, Susie – gosh, I just love reading your stories – I never know where you’re going to take me, but I love being along for the wild rides! Well done, I loved this … young love, isn’t it grand? LOL! ~ Julie 🙂


  5. Susie, when I was reading this post, all I could see in my mind’s eye was the movie Grease for some reason (I have strange images that come to me every now and then!). I don’t ‘do’ Valentine’s myself (although I’m really trying with it on my blog this year!) so something similar must have happened to me when I was at school and I was so traumatised by it I must have blanked it out. Not that Bob was probably traumatised or anything. But he may have been. Erm…
    Great post! Fun read! 😀


  6. I always felt invisible at school particularly when it came to the girls that I fancied, they never really talked, or took any interest in myself until one day I had a sleek new haircut and must admit I felt a bit special, as you mostly do after a haircut, and everything changed, these girls started to converse with me, sit next to me, there were smiles, giggles, notes passed around and generally I was this popular classmate. But alas I was still the same person as I was before my haircut and I struggled to comprehend how my status could change after a simple haircut, so what to do, I essentially ignored these people as it was insulting for me to be treated different because of my looks, people are fickle and school children more so and throughout my life I have always tried to ignore others looks, I do understand something attractive leaves a pleasing feeling behind, but for me on Valentine’s Day it’s about the beauty from within that is key, and mostly I’m drawn to people who love themselves first and foremost with or without any Valentine in their life.


  7. Oh my goodness, Susie, what a heartbreak. If we only knew then what we didn’t know then. Growing up is so painful, especially when our friends put us on the spot.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I enjoyed it do much!


  8. I’m stopping by to thank you for the comment you left on my “freshly pressed” Valentine’s Day post a couple of days ago. I’m glad I did because I enjoyed your Valentine’s Day story as well 🙂


  9. Oh, Susie, what a perfect memory for Valentine’s Day! It brought back a few of mine. I think romance is always exactly like this.. lots of confusion, fear, hope and, sadly, sometimes a broken heart or two. Happy Valentine’s Day!!


    1. I am glad you could relate to the drama of that first romance. Even if it only lasted for a few short minutes during recess. Hahaha! Thanks for stopping by to read Smidgen! Happy Valentine’s Day to you!


  10. Great story. I also feel like a company could get a good mechanical pencil commercial out of this, provided the boy in the commercial made it much more obvious that the pencil was, in fact, for the girl and not a random writing instrument he had found and/or stolen.


  11. Smiles! The crowd really has a way of increasing tension and pressure in issues like these. Growing up is a process and it is such experiences as these that eventually affect our disposition towards relationships and influence our strategies as we grow. Nice piece! The thought of mechanical pencils now makes me smile too. Love your story or should I say your story telling! Smiles once again!


  12. Quite Charming Susie and reminds me of my own personal story about a ginger haired boy and an Airfix model airplane kit. Years later we were to meet briefly on the street where I lived and even then, my heart did a back flip when he smiled at me.



    1. Isn’t it amazing how we make those connections? I think he really felt off 30 years later when I saw him with his wife. He never looked me in the eye. It was still so awkward for him! Hahaha!
      Thanks Talia!


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