When Stomping Means I Love You

When my mother’s cousin wrote recently, lamenting the fact that many of the houses on my long-dead grandmother’s street had been torn down,  I wasn’t upset.  The city probably took action to prevent the spread of crazy cooties.   The street seemed a haven for the oddball, the eccentric, and the bat-sh*t crazy.   They swept their sidewalks, held down jobs, and fed their children.  Beyond that, raising kids meant sending them outside to play.  And we could stay out long after dark.  No wonder I liked staying there.

Valentine’s Eve was a big deal.  The tradition was to deliver valentines after dark, depositing the little cards on porches, stomping on said porch, then running away before anyone could get to the door.  Sure, there were doorbells, but jumping up and down was more fun.  We had Valentine boxes at school, but ‘hood deliveries had intrigue.

I’d hear the stamping feet and turn on the porch light, scamper out, and pick up the white envelopes.  I’d made my deliveries early, so as not to miss any of my own.

One of the stomps was always by the much older Barker twins, who lived in the next block.  Valentine’s Eve was their one foray into pretend sociability.  The twins were from one of the “not right” families.  They never played with the other kids and it was rumored that their daddy beat their momma with his wooden leg.

Their card was easy to spot–it was never in an envelope–and the string they’d tied to it was visible.  I knew they planned to yank it out of reach as soon as I went for it.  I could have simply ignored it and gone back inside, leaving them squatting in disappointment in the hydrangeas, but I didn’t.  I’d reach for that valentine and they’d jerk the string and laugh in the darkness as they ran up the street to the next sucker.  I’d go back inside, wishing I’d tried to step on it instead.

Other than on Numnut Avenue,  I never knew any other children who followed that custom.   Was it a holdover from Victorian times or a sneaky custom followed by Romanian gypsies?  On that street, it could have been either.

NPR had a segment yesterday about “The Dark Origins of Valentine’s Day” and it made me think of the Barker twins.   More aptly, their daddy, since one of the traditions involved beating women with animal skins.

Much more fun to think about today is the six-word love story challenge offered by the NYTimes and Smith Magazine.  Darn it, “Love’s like chocolates.   Picked, processed, pooped.” has already been submitted.  Got one of your own?  Spill it, clever ones!  Here’s a link to the story in case you’d like to send it in to the Times, but do share it here, too!



9 thoughts on “When Stomping Means I Love You

  1. Unfortunately we didn’t deliver valentine cards after dark, at school was the only place we exchanged them. That’s too bad because I think it would have been a lot of fun! That’s too funny about the twins…wonder if anyone ever caught the valentine and ruined their fun! lol Every street seems to have someone like that. We have a few odd balls on our street and I try to stay as far away as I can from them….every once in a while they find me though! lol

    Hmmmm, 6 word love story? Boink Boink Boink Boink Boink Woohoo

    Did I really type that? LOL xoxo

  2. What a fascinating story – I’d never heard about this tradition and like Pea, school was the only place we exchanged Valentines. Sounds like those Barker twins needed a little more chocolate in their diet – or any other kind of sugar.

  3. You need to see the film Volver if you haven’t already, because the village that the protagonists are all from have, as quoted later in the film, the highest rate of insane people per capita in all of Spain. This story makes me think you would love it to pieces.

  4. MaryLee the only time I remember exchanging Valentines was in school. I remember it was stressful as I was always so dilgent about writing out a Valentine card for each and every student in my class and I’d go home with way less 😦

    But guess what? YOU WON MY One World One Heart GIVE AWAY!!!!

    Please send an e-mail to me with your name and address so I can send out your package this weekend! I was delighted you were my winner!

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