Some people claim that you are to blame as much as I.
Why do y' take the trouble to bake my favorite pie?
Grantin' yer wish, I carved our initials on that tree.
Jest keep a slice of all that advice you give so free.
— "People Will Say We're in Love", Oklahoma!!
This is when an older character comes across a graffito he wrote when he was young or when a younger character writes a graffito, intending to go back and look at it when he's old.
The most common form of this is childhood sweethearts carving their initials into a tree with a heart around them, hence the trope name. Alternately, the initials may be under an umbrella
. Saving the tree in question is a common element of Green Aesop
A variation has the graffito written by a third party as a form of visual gossip; this may also be revisited by either or both sweethearts later on.
Anime and Manga
- Kuno of Ranma ½ does this in a tree, using the Umbrella of Togetherness variation. Too bad it turns out to be a cursed dating tree...
- While out training in the country, Genma comes across a Umbrella of Togetherness he carved with his and Nodoka's names, and proudly shows it to his son. Ranma is rather incredulous that the two could ever be so lovey-dovey.
Film - Animated
Film - Live Action
- There's an infamous example in Superman fandom with "L.L. ♥s C.K." The joke, of course, is that Lana Lang, Lois Lane, Lori Lemaris and Lex Luthor all have the initials "L.L." And that's just the beginning.
- MAD Magazine: Don Martin drew a cartoon, "Down Lover's Lane", where a pair of Sickeningly Sweethearts notice a knife stuck in a tree, stop to carve a heart, and walk on. Later, another couple, no less syrupy but dressed in biker leathers, walks by the same tree, stops by... and walk away with a heart carved on the girl's forehead while the boy tosses the bloody knife behind him. (She's happy, though!)
- Anne of Green Gables has a subplot regarding the writing of these on the schoolhouse wall. The children refer to each Sweetie Graffiti as a Take Notice (as in "Extra Extra! John likes Jane!"). Note that said children are about twelve, thus they are hovering between cooties and dating; thus reactions to the Sweetie Graffiti change as they mature. As the narration puts it, you'd rather die than be featured in a Take Notice, but it's embarrassing knowing there's no danger of it ever happening.
- A non-romantic variant occurs in the Aubrey-Maturin series, where Jack carves his initials into the mast of a ship as a small boy and sees them there years later as the ship's captain.
- The Giving Tree features this.
- One of the illustrated Discworld books features a tree at the edge of a scene that's covered in these, all apparently created by Nanny Ogg for her various lovers.
- Including "L.d.Q" in flowing mirror writing, which explains the Mona Ogg.
- Played with in Where the Red Fern Grows. The main character got the names for his dogs from one of these.
- The Kite Runner: Amir carves, "Amir and Hassan, the sultans of Kabul," into a pomegranate tree with Ali's kitchen knives.
- In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden meets an old man who came to the school to see if his old grafitto is still on the bathroom door. Holden thinks it's weird.
- Another non-romantic version is in one of the Anastasia Krupnik books, when Anastasia's family moves. Battling her sadness over this, Anastasia writes, This is my room forever. Anastasia Krupnik in small letters on her bedroom wall, then goes downstairs to her father's study to have a conversation with him, during which she acts like nothing is wrong. As she's leaving, she notices his name on the wall.
- Graham Greene deconstructs this trope in one of his short stories: An old man comes back to his town and wants to see a graffiti where he painted the mystery of undiscovered sex when he was a teen. When he sees it, he only can see a gross caricature. The point is that for a teen, that graffiti really was glorious art. For an old man, is disgusting garbage.
- In The True Meaning of Smekday, Gratuity writes the terrible, four-letter word FART on the bottom of a ticket booth, only to come back and find out that it isn't there anymore.
- On Frasier, they return to their old summer cabin and it's revealed that Niles carved the Latin for "always wear underwear" someplace.
- In an episode of Home Improvement, Tim lets his oldest son, Brad, make an appearance on his cable TV show, "Tool Time". Brad carves a perfectly shaped wooden heart for his girlfriend, Ashley, while he's on the show. Tim tries, too, but he screws it up (as always) and, as Brad puts it, "It looks like a kidney."
Tim: While a heart says "I love you," a kidney says "I gotta go!"
- This was a clue in an episode of Jonathan Creek.
- On 3rd Rock from the Sun, a character played by Harry Morgan brought this up while trying to guilt trip Mary into giving him her new office:
Prof. Sutor: Ah, the bay window! And the apple tree. My wife and I used to picnic under it all the time. She's dead now. Mary, you have better eyes than I. Do you see anything carved on the trunk out there?
Dick: Oh, I see, it's a heart. A heart, Mary.
Prof. Sutor: I carved it on the day I proposed, right before I went out to fight the Germans.
- This happened on Phil of the Future but it wasn't quite romantic yet. Phil just carved "Phil + Keely Friends Forever" onto a young tree. Fast forward about one hundred years, and Phil's parents carve their names on the same tree.
- Remington Steele: Laura escapes police observation by hiding near a wall with a large graffiti heart and the initials MK and LH. As she emerges, she comments, "You may not have been much of a kisser, Marty Klopman, but you sure knew where to do it."
- In an episode of The George Lopez Show, he brings Angie to see some graffiti that he made of her when their relationship began for their anniversary. It's scheduled to be torn down, and it's revealed that George was taking credit for someone else's work.
- In the Mork and Mindy episode "Old Fears" (where Mork turns himself into an old man and dates Grandma Cora for a while), Cora says she suspected Mork was an alien when he carved their initials into a tree with his finger.
- In a later episode ("There's A New Mork In Town"), Xerko, a very popular, egotistical Orkan, plans to take both Mork's job... and Mindy. Mork, feeling defeated, goes outside to change the carving on the tree to say "Xerko + Mindy".
- Mad Men: DICK + ANNA '64
- Kieren and Rick from In The Flesh have one in a cave that acted as a den for them. It reads "Kieren + Rick 4ever", yup no way that'll cause any pathos in the future.
- Gary Larson parodied this in The Far Side, with the tree being sentient and threatening the couple.
- In an early Peanuts strip, Violet gets Charlie Brown carve their initials into a tree. It doesn't end well.