Friday, February 11, 2011

Curse you Esther Howland, curse you.

Before Esther Howland,‭ ‬simple folks celebrated Valentine’s Day in simple ways.‭ ‬A humble man gave the lovely woman he had grown sweet on an uncomplicated gift‭;‬ a hair ribbon,‭ ‬a bird carved from a piece of pinewood,‭ ‬a tin cup he had fashioned with his own hands.‭ ‬Yes,‭ ‬these gifts were unsophisticated,‭ ‬down-to-earth,‭ ‬and straightforward‭;‬ to our modern eyes the quaint expressions of a country clodhopper.‭

Attached to‭ ‬such humble and straightforward gifts would often be a handwritten note.‭ ‬This note would match the unpretentiousness of the gift with a simple‭ “‬To:‭ ‬My beloved‭; ‬From:‭ ‬me‭”, ‬scrawled in dull pencil on a wrinkled scrap of paper.‭

Then the situation became‭ ‬a bit prickly.‭ ‬Some unknown person found that using the quill of a porcupine and a small well of ink,‭ ‬one could write fluidly.‭ ‬This fluidity was,‭ ‬of course,‭ ‬due to the ink.‭ ‬Now people started composing poems and‭ ‬fluidly‭ ‬writing them down with the help of porcupine quills and ink. To make things more outrageous,‭ ‬some nutty nincompoop decided to attach a poem to the hand-carved bluebird he gave his sweetheart for Valentine’s Day.‭ ‬This proved to be the undoing of many a man,‭ ‬as women all over now expected poetry with their hair ribbons and homemade tin cups.‭ ‬Unfortunately,‭ ‬not all of the male gender were poetic enough to write poetry, and not all were rash enough to try to pluck quills from porcupines.‭

Then,‭ ‬in‭ ‬1847,‭ ‬Esther Howland received an English valentine.‭ ‬She was so captivated by the card she decided to make her own for the American market.‭ ‬She ordered lace,‭ ‬flowers,‭ ‬and paper,‭ ‬to make her own cards.‭ ‬Now the poor simple men could give their valentines a card,‭ ‬covered in lace and pressed flowers,‭ ‬with lovely verses that were sure to melt‭ ‬any ladies heart -‭ s‬uch as the following:

‬I was going to give you a pint of pure nard,

‬Instead,‭ ‬I found this‭ ‬lace-covered card.

It is simple to understand why a tin cup or a hair ribbon could not compete with such engaging poetry.

Ms.‭ ‬Howland did well in her card sale business,‭ ‬grossing over‭ ‬$100,000‭ ‬a year.‭ ‬Much of that money came from poor pitiable non-poetic men.‭ ‬Men who could whittle an adorable bluebird,‭ ‬or robin,‭ ‬or whippoorwill;‭ ‬men who could form a piece of tin into a delightful cup,‭ ‬but who could not pluck their own porcupines,‭ ‬or compose their own poems,‭ ‬or could not cut all those tiny holes in a piece of paper to make lace.‭ ‬Strong proud men purchased these cards to give to their valentines.‭ ‬What of Ms.‭ ‬Howland and her English valentine‭? ‬I confess I only know she never married.‭

Now men all over do exactly what I do every Valentine’s Day.‭ ‬I set my jaw,‭ ‬put on my game face,‭ ‬looking as fierce as possible,‭ ‬and set out for the card store.‭ ‬Steely-eyed,‭ ‬I saunter towards the aisle festooned with pink and hearts.‭ ‬Standing there,‭ ‬looking at the plethora of cards, I start to lose my resolve.‭ ‬My palms start to sweat‭; ‬I can hear the pounding of my heart.‭ ‬Never have I faced such a formidable foe.‭ ‬With shaking hands,‭ ‬I reach for first one card,‭ ‬then another.‭ ‬My head starts to spin as I read the eloquent verses printed in each lace covered card.‭ ‬I wish silently to myself for the days of yore,‭ ‬when a simple tin cup would suffice for my beloved.‭ ‬Then I come back to my senses;‭ ‬who am I kidding!‭  I ‬could not make a tin cup if I tried‭!

I finally find a card with a sentimental verse and an appropriate amount of lace.‭ ‬Grabbing it I head out of the ring,‭ ‬I mean aisle.‭ ‬I see another man standing there at the edge of the aisle,‭ ‬psyching himself up for the battle.‭ ‬I slap his bottom to tag him as if this were some WWF wrestling bout.‭ ‬I hear him snort as‭ ‬he heads down the aisle,‭ ‬ready to do battle with lacey pink cards.‭

As I pay for my conquest,‭ ‬I hear a man coming into the store muttering under his breath,‭ “‬Curse you Esther Howland,‭ ‬curse you.‭”

No comments:

Post a Comment