In the time before texting and email and Facebook, we used to pass notes. Not the quick “Do you like me? Check the box,” sorts of notes, but long-form handwritten letters alternately squeeing and agonizing over our latest crushes, where we would sit at lunch, what SHE said about HER, what we were doing that night or movie we’d see that weekend — you know, the important topics. These weren’t thoughts jotted down in 140 characters, but scrawled on notebook paper and passed between classes or jammed into the vents on someone’s locker.
Sometimes their contents weren’t so light. Those college-ruled pages gave us a place to reveal ourselves in ways we just couldn’t out loud. One of my friends first told me she was Jewish in one of these notes, that she celebrated Hanukkah instead of Christmas and her 13th birthday party wouldn’t be just a big shindig but a rite of passage. In junior high, even in what seems like a very diverse school, when you’re making new friends, sharing these sorts things about yourself seems like a big deal. Putting it on paper can be a whole lot more comfortable than a face-to-face conversation.
With these pages carrying our deepest thoughts, we weren’t content just to fold a sheet into quarters or eighths, there was origami involved, whether we knew that’s what it was or not. I used to have shoeboxes filled with these little packets, now lost to time, or buried in storage at my mom’s house. And while it’s been years — double-digit years — since I folded a note, let alone wrote an actual letter, it’s like riding a bike. Put a sheet of notebook paper in front of me and it comes back like it was yesterday.
Here’s a quick how-to on folding one of those hearts. For Valentine’s Day this year, write your sweetie a note and stick it in a pocket or a lunchbox. It works best with 8.5 x 11 loose-leaf notebook paper, of course.