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Roses, Violets, Sugar, and Cards

Screen Shot 2018-02-15 at 7.54.23 AMIt’s Valentine’s Day. A day to send greetings to those we love. A day that the Greeting Card Association says that over a billion cards are sent, and it’s estimated that almost two hundred million roses are produced for this holiday. That’s about 17,000,000 bouquets of a dozen roses.

When I think of Valentine’s Day cards, I think of a two-line poem I first heard Dad quote when I was a child, and it was printed on some of the first mass produced cards in the mid-1800s.

Roses are red, violets are blue

Sugar is sweet and so are you.

But that’s not how the poem was first written. These lines were adapted from a rhyme published in 1784 in a collection of English nursery rhymes and read as follows:

The rose is red, the violet’s blue,

The honey’s sweet, and so are you.

Thou are my love and I am thine;

I drew thee to my Valentine.

The origins of these words can be traced back all the way to the 16th century, 1590, and were written by Sir Edmund Spenser in his epic The Faerie Queene. To describd a fair lady, he wrote, ‘She bath’d with roses red, and violets blew.’ All these years later, cards are printed with variations of the two lines about roses and violets and honey.

By the time you read this, I’m sure everyone has given and received Valentine cards. But what if you haven’t? It’s not too late. All you need is a pen or keyboard, a little time, and a willingness to put your feelings in words.

Husband and I have celebrated more that fifty Valentine’s Days. Yes, fifty! Three as college sweethearts and forty-eight as husband and wife. The cards we’ve given each other chronicle our time together. From lovey-dovey courtship days. Busyness of early marriage, each holding a job. Appreciation of love and care given to children and family. To funny verses about love lasting through the years. And we’ve exchanged gifts of flowers and candy.

I do appreciate every card, every gift, but I most remember one gift and one card. When Husband and I were college students, I was the only girl in my dormitory who received a dozen long- stemmed yellow roses. Yellow, not red, roses. No doubt the florist tried to convince Husband that red roses signify love and romance and were the perfect Valentine flower. Yellow roses represent joy and friendship. Husband knew yellow roses were my favorite flowers.

And my best-loved card didn’t cost one penny, except Husband’s time and the expense of printer ink. Not a store-bought card, but a personal card. I read this just-for-me card every Valentine’s Day and sometimes in between.

So write a card for your sweetheart. Begin with ‘Roses are red and violets are blue. Sugar is sweet and so are you.’ You can’t go wrong with those words. They’ve been around a long time.

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