Growing up, I always remember my Grandma making special cookies for Valentine’s Day. They were Five Star Cookies, cut into heart shapes with white icing and a red cinnamon heart in the middle. When I was in kindergarten, my Grandma sent some to school for me to share during our Valentine’s class party. My teacher loved them so much that she asked me to deliver one straight to the principal. This was celebrity status for my plaid-skirt-wearing, school-rule-abiding little self. The experience has stuck with me as an example of love, pride and belonging. And when I think about it, I am reminded of the paper-heart simplicity that Valentine’s used to be about. As I grew up, I started to complicate things.
One example of how to bring back some paper-heart simplicity can be found through music. Composer Carrie Jacobs-Bond wrote Sentimental Ballads around the turn of the 20th century. In her autobiography, Roads of Melody, Mrs. Bond described herself as a “writer of home songs, and songs that touch the heart, rather than a great musician”. (Bond, 4) She humbly compared herself to musical greats of the time, but what she underestimated is the power of emotion and sentiment in her music, still relevant to audiences today. Underneath this humble façade was a life of struggle: Carrie was a single mother widowed with debt; she had severe rheumatoid arthritis; and she worked through performance anxiety to give hundreds of free performances to try and promote her music. Through all of her struggles, music brought her comfort and gave her purpose. Over time, with perseverance and faith, Carrie Jacobs-Bond became one of the most prolific, published composers of her time. She even toured the front during WWI, sharing the message of love in her music with the shell-shocked soldiers.
I’ve included an image of the sheet music for I Love You Truly to showing the beautiful cover art, which was painted by Carrie herself. And here is a delightful old gramophone recording of the song, crackles, warbles and all.
So, in the words of Carrie Jacobs-Bond, here is a Valentine’s message:
I love you truly, truly dear,
Life with its sorrow, life with its tear
Fades into dreams when I feel you are near
For I love you truly, truly dear.
Ah! Love, ’tis something to feel your kind hand
Ah! Yes, ’tis something by your side to stand;
Gone is the sorrow, gone doubt and fear,
For you love me truly, truly dear.