Most schools have Valentine’s Day parties still. Valentine’s day is a neutral holiday, like Thanksgiving, most faiths don’t object to it. Unless, like me, you think it is just another excuse by marketers to give your children more sugar.
At Bird’s school, the 4th graders celebrate the heart day a little differently. My girl is still gushing about how awesome it was, wishing they could do it everyday (no way…too much work and money!). Yes, they still exchange the silly little cards with cute pictures and many kids bring candy to pass out. But those things are barely remembers compared to the main event of the day.
On the evening of the 13th, Bird came down to model her dress for the big day. Her favorite feature of the chosen dress: the way the skirt sparkles in the light. Even though she studied her hair style book, she couldn’t master a french twist and since I am no help in the fancy hair department, she settled on a bun.
I spent 3 hours on Monday and 5 hours on Tuesday at school. We were preparing for the Valentine’s Banquet. Because of other commitments, I did not help on this committee. I just showed up to work. Like kids might do for a Homecoming Dance, we decorated the gym with a winter theme….fake trees with white lights, a garden arch for photos, white lights every year. There were ten tables, each draped with white table clothes. The places were set formally with multiple forks and folded cloth napkins. A printed menu of the multi-course meal was at each chair, along with a name card. Normally for this event, kids sit boy/ girl so the boys can pull out the chairs. This year though the girls outnumber the boys by 3 to 1 so teachers let the kids write down names of who they wanted to sit next to. Then they made the seating arrangements.
Parent volunteers did the decorating, the serving and the cleaning up. The kids ate salad, sorbet, pasta with veggies, and a brownies drizzled with chocolate sauce, whip cream and sprinkles. They drank water and a fruit punch. They listened to piano music.
For the last week, the fourth graders had been learning about formal etiquette. You know, rules you rarely use anymore….cut a bite, eat it, cut a bite, eat it. When finished place your fork and your knife together, tongs side up, in the center of your plate. Adults are served first, then girls, then boys. Don’t completely clean your plate, it is rude. The kids talked about it all. They talked about manners in other countries and that manners vary even within our country. They won’t remember all that they learned, but a formal dining atmosphere will not be completely foreign to them now. And they know where to go to refresh if they need to.
And watching them sit politely, all dressed ups, saying “yes please” and “no thank you” at a table lit with candle will be a lasting memory for them and me. Watching a boy stand up and pull out the chair for the principal was charming. It was nice to practice what some call “old fashioned” manners.