I don't normally mark Valentine's Day, but my eighth grade English class did, so this year I have a thematic piece of childhood writing to share in honor of the holiday.
The assignment was to write an essay or poem inspired by Valentine's Day. I guess song lyrics also counted as acceptable:
The Gift of Love
to be sung to the tune of
"I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing"
I'll give the world the gift of love
This St. Valentine's Day.
The feeling of being cared for
Will never go away.
This love will envelop the earth
And fill each empty space.
Everyone everywhere will smile,
All people will embrace.
There'll be no shouts of anger heard
And all fighting will cease.
All guns will drop from people's hands:
The world will be at peace.
I thought it was nice I came up with an interpretation of the assignment that avoided nearly-fourteen-year-old romantic angst about, say, Justin who sat in front of me in science class and made funny jokes. I started imagining a teacher having to read dozens of such compositions, so then I wasn't too surprised when I read the complete instructions and saw a variety of suggested topics entirely unrelated to romantic love. The sole opportunity to muse on a crush offers, "If you wish, you may answer this question without giving the name of the person."
My poem was an answer to number 8, "If you could give the world a valentine, what you would give and why?" Several others involve gifts, including the somewhat surreal "Pretend you are a valentine gift. What are you? To whom will you be given and why?" The rest relate to hearts, most notably "If your heart were visible for others to see, what would you want us to see?" I really hope some smart aleck wrote about regular beats and properly functioning blood vessels. I'm surprised that smart aleck wasn't me. I bet Justin would have taken the bait.
The instructions indicate we wrote the rough drafts of these compositions during class, then revised them for homework. I approached the editing more enthusiastically than with most of the other assignments, perhaps either because I wrote the first draft with less preparation or because it was poetry:
Later I gave up on both Justin and world peace, and I started writing quite often about romantic love. My post from five years ago, What We Write About When We Write About Love, covers some of the problems with conveying love believably in fiction. I've written plenty more characters in love since then, and I still find it tricky to get right. Things were so much simpler in eighth grade.