The only time I have ever won a guessing game contest was in first grade. That year was a first in many respects. The first time I made a friend in school, and the first time I was scared of a teacher. The first time I tried hard in school, and the first time I can clearly recall standing up to the kid that bullied me for years.
It was Valentine’s Day, or maybe a day off. The weather was snowy, because Kansas still had winters back then. Inside all the kids were sitting in their seats, sifting through their handmade Valentine’s Day boxes. Mine might have been a monster, or perhaps I am recalling a memory from another year (This memory was just as likely from second or third grade, but I hold a certain fondness and regard for the lady who inspired me to work hard for a majority of my life). Whatever my box looked like, it was definitely decorated in hearts. And it didn’t have enough room for a small kid to fit their hands in, no matter how hard I tried or how persistent I was. A lull of time betwixt handing out candy and the next activity was heading to a close.
The parent volunteer gathered the class’ attention with what I recall more joy and ease than that of any of my high school or middle school teachers. In her hands, she held a small red bucket. The bucket, red and metallic and adorned with a heart, immediately caught my attention. At the time, my brother’s favorite color was red (and mine blue), which was why it captured me so. It was red, like that of the plastic wagon I recalled being pulled around in my younger years (read: between 4 and 6) during the summer months or on a past vacation to see the St. Louis arch. It was red, and full of candy, and I wanted it. Forgetting about my homemade box, I set my eyes on the volunteer. Then, quickly, to the other students before setting my sights on the bucket once more. The others were aware of it too! Maybe we’d all get to have a piece?
To no such luck, it seemed. To get any of the Hershey’s Kisses in the bucket, we’d have to guess the number inside correctly. My teacher, Ms. German (pronounced Grr-man), passed around sticky notes for us to write our guesses and names on. I hurriedly and sloppily wrote my guess down, as if being slow would make me wrong. Ms. German collected the guesses and the volunteer prepared to read the answer.
“One-hundred and three.”
She said that with a content tone, as if that number could fix the fighting that was sure to occur soon after. Even though I was clearly paying attention at the time, I didn’t really register the number. I didn’t recognize that my number was three off.
To my surprise, after looking through all the guesses, Ms. German declared me the winner. Had I been thinking of the future, I would have kept all the candies to myself. But I was thinking of others (thanks for the manners, mom), and so I went around giving each of my classmates two Kisses candies.
That’s the best school Valentine’s Day, or any school holiday, I ever had. And it wasn’t due to winning either. It was due to getting thanked afterwards for sharing my prize. I remember feeling the same simple joy I get from watching my cat drink ice water. Feeling the same rightness with the world, like I have no reason to be worried or sad.