My Funny Valentine

Not every couple celebrates Valentine’s Day. In fact, some go to extreme measures NOT to make a fuss over the Hallmark Holiday for personal – and very intense and passionate – reasons: those reasons being a passionate disdain for the commercialization of love.

I used to hate Val’s Day in high school. I went to GIS (Ghana International School) which at the time was Accra’s micro version of Beverly Hills 90210. We had the nerds, the alternative kids, the rich kids, the jocks, the kids who paid their school fees in cedis instead of dollars, each with their own standard of cool. I was kind of a social misfit, so I didn’t belong to a particular clique that was covered by any of these genres. My 4 best friends did, however. They were either rich or brainy (or in Mamissa’s case, both) but they accepted me and saved me from self-destruction for the 3 years I endured GIS.

No, really. You’re talking about a girl who belted a nightgown and strutted around in it after school because the article of clothing came from America. I had long forgotten what a night gown looked like!

As any GIS graduate or current student, I suspect, will tell you, Valentine’s Day is a galactic deal on campus. If you were a girl, the fate and weight of your integrity depended on how many valentines you received on the assigned distribution day. Your boyfriend’s love for you was measured in helium balloons, roses framed with baby’s breaths and cards from this one shop in Osu whose name has long escaped me. Every year, the usual suspects received colossal arrangements. The Baetas, the Olypios, the Ampals…those were the girls who received the best gifts, which included cakes and at one time (gasp!) a bottle of wine, which was duly confiscated. The next tier down was the Kumahors and the Mensa-Bonsus and their ilk. They got cards and/or a rose. Then there was me. In the course of 3 years I had dated 2 guys who went to different schools, and unlike the Baeta girls who had a string of would be paramours off campus and had no qualms about making their affections known, they simply couldn’t be bothered to send anything. So for 3 years, I got nothing on Valentine’s Day.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. While I was kvetching about how much I loathed the day with my boy Percy, I unexpectedly got my period. Bled all over the wooden seat and had to wait for the class to empty out before I could leave. W. Cofie may have forgotten me on Valentine’s Day, but Auntie Flo hadn’t! I can always count on my period for a warm surprise.

I carried a deep dislike for Val’s Day in my chest for a decade more, until I met and married Marshall, who has gone out of his way to make each one special. Now that we have a family, I have gotten over my distrust of the “holiday” and have formed an expanded vision of love as well. There are several types of love, and we’ve discussed them on M.O.M. and in other circles before. There’s brotherly love, romantic love, the love between a parent and their child and love for friends. I have discovered a 5th type of love; that being the love of one’s teacher…or in this case, my daughter’s third grade teacher.

Let me tell you, I love me some Ms. McNeil. I call her K-Mac(!). The woman is just phenomenal. Aya looks up to her with such reverence that it warms my heart. I can tell she genuinely appreciates her teacher, which makes me appreciate her all the more. In the two years that K-Mac has been teaching my daughter, there has never been a day that she has woken up in a bad mood or reluctant to go to school. K-Mac keeps her engaged, encouraged and excited to learn. That is why she is my funny valentine this year.

teacherI have already picked and wrapped Marshall’s gift, but I am fretting over what to get Ms. McNeil. I have gone to extreme lengths to make sure her gift is just so. Yesterday morning, I jumped out of bed and braved the morning frost so that I could rummage through my recycling and retrieve a forgotten coupon for a local gift shop for her. Yes, I dumpster dived for this teacher I love so dearly! Put my dignity on the ground and everything for this woman!

I spent 15 minutes picking out the perfect bag that would serve as the temporary housing space for said gift. I spent half the morning agonizing over what my note in the card I’d picked out for her should say.

I really dig you, Ms. McNeil… Nah. I couldn’t say that. That sounded so creepy; almost grave digger-ish.

You’re the best thing that ever happened to us, Ms McNeil!…. Jeesh! Desperate much, Malaka? Erase that!

Finally I settled on “You are beloved” and sealed the card before I could damage the parchment further.

lopezNow that we have had so many other bad teachers (or teachers who have been bad for my kids, to be fair to these hardworking ladies), I cannot state enough what the value of an educator who keeps your kid inspired and focused is. There is no currency conversion for this. It’s priceless. One has only to look at what has become known as “the Lopez Effect” for proof of this. Passion, dedication and genuine concern for the outcomes of your students is not something they can teach in a course. It’s something that’s either innate in the fiber of an educator, or it’s not; and K-Mac is chockfull of all of those things and this is why I love her.

But what if she doesn’t like my gift? What if she thinks I’m this super weird Black chick with inordinate feelings for her instructional gifts? Gosh, I feel like a hormonal 15 year old boy trying to gather the courage to ask the girl in the cat sweater to the school dance. It’s so unsettling. This sucks! Nevertheless, I will not chicken out, and I will give her my carefully selected gifts. Do you see the difference between true love and obligation to love? True love cares if it gets it right! If the giver of your gift isn’t a bit shaken when they are handing over their gift, they ain’t really care.

Are you giving an unconventional Valentine’s Day gift this year? Why don’t you give a li’l something to the janitor or your bank teller? Valentine’s Day is not just for boyfriend and girlfriends. It’s a day for love of all kinds! Try expanding your scope too. It helps with the nyashing. 😉

Oh, hey! Are you in Accra and still looking for a great last minute gift for Val’s Day? Treat yourself or the one the love to some hot MAKSI fashion and fiction! You can find copies of The Justice (Boakyewaa Glover) and The Daughters of Swallows (Malaka.)

Get some hot “prints” for your body and your eyes! 😉


MAKSI is located at Palm Street, East Legon (opposite NVTI)

Tel: 050 4529393