A Valentine Story ©
"I like you but I don't like your brother," complained Sheila, emphasizing her dislike by wrinkling up her nose. "He's weird."
Judy felt a sharp pang of despair in the pit of her stomach as Sheila left the house. It was always the same story. Whenever she thought she found a friend in this strange, new city they always took a dislike to her brother, Freddie.
He was queer or different or strange but, in the end, no one liked him and it wasn't Judy's fault. She often cried from loneliness and complained to her mother.
What made it even worse this time was the class Valentine's party. It was tomorrow and Judy was afraid no one would give her a Valentine. Oh, how embarrassing that would be! How awful! She just wouldn't go to school tomorrow, that's all, she decided.
Suddenly she began crying just thinking about it and soon her sobbing started a flood of tears.
"Why Judy, whatever is the matter?" probed her mother as she entered her room. "What's the matter, honey? Can I help you? You can tell me your problem, Judy."
She tried to stop crying. She knew her mother would help her if she could but she couldn't this time, she just couldn't.
Bravely, she dried her tears.
"I have no friends here, mommy." It hurt her to say that and Judy's eyes became wet again.
"Oh, Judy," comforted her mother, "we've just moved here. Don't worry, honey. You'll find friends. You always do. Such a fine friend you are, Judy. And you'll make new ones, you'll see."
But Judy found that hard to believe. From the bottom of her aching heart, she blurted out, "They don't like Freddie."
Her mother always sat upright whenever Judy said this about Freddie and she always hated to say it but it was true. This time her mother's face wore a set, tired expression.
"It's Freddie, is it Judy?" she said softly. "It's always Freddie, isn't it?"
Judy felt terrible she had mentioned her younger brother.
"Never mind, honey, it will all work out," said her mother quietly.
Judy buried her head into the pillow again, still miserable. She heard her mother dial the telephone and although she was ordinarily curious this time she wasn't even interested.
Freddie wandered into her room.
"Hi..." He stared at his sister vacantly.
Judy smiled at him. "Hi Freddie. Come here."
Freddie meandered over to her. He grinned.
"I love you, Ju--dee," he said, speaking carefully.
"Love you, too, Freddie," whispered Judy, drying her eyes. "And I understand you even if no one else does." She hugged her brother. He smiled again.
Then Judy took down a picture book for him. Although her feelings were still hurt, she could understand why all her new classmates thought Freddie was weird.
He was mentally challenged. Her parents had told her it was called 'Down's Syndrome' and that Freddie would never be as smart as others his own age but that he needed love just as much as she did and that he loved everyone just as much too.
"Ju--dee cry?" asked Freddie. "Not anymore, Freddie, not now," said Judy biting her lip.
She stayed away from school the next morning because she still felt miserable. The Valentine's party was in the afternoon and she desperately wanted to miss it.
At noon hour her mother insisted she attended classes.
Her father even came home and drove her to school! How could she escape the horror of the class Valentine's party?
But to Judy's amazement and delight, she received a large number of Valentine cards—an especially big one from Sheila. And then her teacher handed her another bag crammed with Valentines!
"These are for Freddie," she said. "Your mother called and explained that Freddie enjoys pictures and we thought if we sent him these he might want to come and visit us some day, Judy."
Judy beamed. How happy she was! For herself, yes—but also for Freddie!
"Thank you everyone," she said shyly. "Freddie will just love them."
And she thought to herself, what a great Valentine's Day this is!