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The heart tree on Leonard Avenue made from 100% love

As I walked down Leonard Avenue the Saturday January 30th, aka Saturday-of-the-big-snow, Valentines Day was on my mind.  Liza and I decided to devote an entire week to this celebrated day of Love since we both ADORE the holiday.  Hey, what’s not to love about Valentines Day:  chocolates, flowers, sexy lingerie (hopefully!)  (ok – Liza is rolling her eyes right now; she hates the word sexy) and jewelry.  Ahhh, the jewelry…… Contemplating all the things we could write about was mind-boggling.  Just then I saw it  — a Valentine’s tree.  Handmade hearts nestled in the boughs of the snow laden tree; it was simply beautiful.  Don’t you agree?   I had a camera in my back pack and took a quick picture.  Those aren’t plastic; those are homemade works of art.

On the hills of Montgomery Bell Academy, where all the sledding was happening, I ran into the trees’ owner, Martha Ivester.  “Hope you don’t mind but I took a picture of your heart tree for the blog.”   She smiled and said, “You know there’s a great story behind the heart tree.”  My heart raced: Yipee! There’s nothing better to me than a blog idea with a good story attached.

Martha Ivester surrounded by hearts

The tree of hearts originated out of a woman’s love for her friend who was battling breast cancer.  She thought it would be fun to offer her a handmade gift, so she “hearted” her warrior friend’s trees in the middle of the night for an early morning surprise.  The heart trees were so popular in the small town of Winchester, MA that they began showing up all over town.  Women would gather on January 31 and sneak around to friends’ homes to “heart” them.  Smart women that they were, they had their husbands drive the get-a-way cars.  It seems the “hearts” really livened up the streets of New England during the dreary winter.  Certain streets became detours because the heart trees were so dramatic.  Helen Cabour, another Winchester gal, said that she started out “hearting” her tree about seven years ago.  She started out with 100 hearts and no one noticed.  Determined to get some attention, she then added a couple of hundred more and now, can taut a dogwood filled with over 1,500 hearts!

Realizing the trend was here to stay, the local church, Parish of the Epiphany, began to sell “heart kits” to benefit their favorite charity.  Each kits had fabric, a template for the four inch heart patterns and one important stipulation:  the purchaser had to make the hearts themselves, not just buy a kit.  Woman all over town had “heart” parties where they would gather, drink wine, socialize and craft hearts together.  Since stuffing and sewing a heart is relatively low tech, I think the vino may have added panache to the hearts.

What a fabulous idea for Nashville.  I can think of dozens of charities who can benefit from selling heart kits.  Nashville’s kits could have special Titan hearts or celebrity hearts donated by song writers and country music stars.  Before you know it,  Nashville could become the “heart” capital of the US.  I mean, I know Northern women can sew, but in what region does a child’s smocked dress meet the phrase “Did you make that?” most often?  Not the North.  I was always filled with shame while fessing up to buying my daughters dresses – the horror!  It’s true: Southern girls can use a needle!  You know we are going to see smocked and monogrammed hearts.  That’s OK- I say “BRING IT ON!”

Right now I have a person in mind that I want to “heart” in the middle of the night. I bet you do too.  If you like this idea, pass it on, or better yet, have a “heart” party this week.

Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester, MA

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