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."
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 written on a wall, under an umbrella, or on some other object. Saving the tree in question is a common element of Green Aesop plots.
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.
- Ranma ½:
- Kuno does this in a tree, using the umbrella variation. Too bad it turns out to be a cursed dating tree...
- While out training in the country, Genma comes across an umbrella 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.
- Eureka Seven: Eureka and Renton decided to do one better than a tree. They carved theirs on the moon!
- In the Japanese version of the Pokémon episode "The School of Hard Knocks", the photo of Giselle that Joe showed Ash had an umbrella version with his and Giselle's name under it. Oddly Giselle is one of the extremely few characters with a surname in the Japanese version, made even odder in that she is a Character Of The Day. Her full name is "Yuutou Seiyo".
- In the final episode of Koi Kaze Koshiro and Nanoka carve their names into a tree in the amusement park where they first met, not knowing that the tree is about to be chopped down.
- Jonathan Joestar does this on a tree with his and Erina's names in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood
- Lamput: In "Cat", the building in the background has a heart symbol containing the text "T + M" etched into it. The people it refers to are unknown.
- 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!)
- In FernGully: The Last Rainforest Zack carves Krista's name in a tree with his pocketknife, to her dismay.
- In WALLE, the eponymous character lasers his name and EVE's onto a metal pole.
- The Ghost Rider movie uses this.
- A non-romantic family love example of this appears in the Apocalypse series film Tribulation, when young Eileen carves her name and those of her brothers Thomas and Calvin into a tree and then afterwards prays to God for the tree to continue standing as a landmark for when any of them would lose their way. Later on in the movie, Tom as an adult during the time of the Tribulation would find the tree still standing with their names still etched in it, and there meets up with his brother-in-law Jason Quincy who is also on the run from One Nation Earth.
- In The Money Pit, Tom Hanks sees that initials have been carved into a tree in the backyard of the house he's just bought. But, like with everything else about the house, the tree falls over when he tries to carve his own initials into it, taking several other trees with it in the process.
- Calamity Jane: Calamity invites Katie to move into her cabin. In the song "A Woman's Touch" they clean up the cabin together, and Katie paints "Calam and Katie" on the cabin door, with flowers around it. Some people are not convinced that their relationship is 101% heterosexual.
- It: Chapter Two: In a flashback, a young Richie is shown carving his affections for someone into the kissing bridge, though we don't see who the other initial belongs to. At the end of the movie, adult Richie goes back to re-etch it and we get the whole thing: R + E, for Richie + Eddie.
- In a flashback in Someone Great, Nate vandalizes a fountain for his and Jenny's relationship.
- Absolutely Truly: Truly finds a whole bunch of these inside Pumpkin Falls' covered bridge on a field trip to the frozen waterfall. Scooter tries to add some mocking her and Lucas, but is stopped by the science teacher.
- 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 & 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, for Dick Whitman—i.e. Don Draper—and Anna Draper—that is to day, the widow of the original Don Draper, whose identity our "Don" stole. In a bit of a subversion, although they were friends, it was purely Platonic.
- 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.
- A video clip from Pink for the song "So What" has her dealing with this post-breakup by chainsawing down the tree.
- The '60s hit "Walk Away Renee", by the Left Banke:
Your name and mine inside a heart upon a wall
Still finds a way to haunt me, though they're so small
- "Two Initials (in a Heart)", an early '60s doo-wop record by Ritchie Adams.
- From The Beatles, George Harrison's "If I Needed Someone":
Carve your number on my wall
And maybe you will get a call from me
If I needed someone.
- The Decemberists' duet "Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)", a song expressing the love of a Confederate soldier dying at Manassasnote and his sweetheart/wife back in South Carolina opens with the lines:
Soldier (Colin Meloy): Heart-carved tree trunk, Yankee bayonet, a sweetheart left behind
Sweetheart (Laura Veirs): Far from the hills of the sea-swell Carolinas, that's where my true love lies
- It's not clear from the song whether he carved the heart back home and now remembers it or if he carved it with the bayonet while dying.
- Joe Diffie's "John Deere Green" tells of Billy Bob, who climbed the water tower to paint it with a huge heart and his name with his high school sweetheart's. The two marry, and the declaration of love remains, visible from their front yard, despite the town's attempts to paint over it.
- The narrator of The Band Perry's "Chainsaw" goes back to see the tree she and her significant other carved with their names, a heart with an arrow, and 'forever'. Now that they've broken up, she's chopping it down for firewood.
- The Smashing Pumpkins, "Galapagos":
Carve out your heart for keeps in an old oak tree
- In "Cough It Out" by The Front Bottoms, the narrator finds a tree with his and his lovers initials and starts seeing the shape of the initials everywhere:
All the branches on the tree that we carved our initials in seem to bend and take the shape of them
- Bryan White's "Tree of Hearts" is a variant. The boy in the story carves a heart into a tree trunk for each year he's together with his girl. Over the years, they become adults and get married under the eponymous tree, and continue to carve hearts into it. At the end of the song, they both die and are buried under the tree, which now has 61 hearts on it.
- From Weezer's "Thank God for Girls":
I carved her name into all the trees
Sang a song down on one knee
Looking at the underwear page of the Sears catalog like when I was fourteen
- Kingdom Hearts features chalk drawings by Sora and Kairi in a hidden cave that they revisit years after they were drawn.
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask does this with the Skull Kid. He's drawn various drawings of himself and the fairy siblings Tatl and Tael at several parts of Termina Field; Tatl points out the one outside the entrance to the Southern Swamp to start some exposition about how he Used to Be a Sweet Kid before he found Majora's Mask.
- Inkopolis Plaza in Splatoon has some Japanese Umbrella of Togetherness graffiti scattered around it in the games fictional language.
- One of the collectables in South Park: The Fractured but Whole are yaoi fanarts of Tweek and Craig. One of these pictures is found on a tree which has the letters C + T in a heart carved into it.
- In the Bon Voyage expansion pack for The Sims 2, one item is an upstanding log that Sims can examine, reading what has been carved into it. There is a chance for a chain of four messages reading DL + CG, DL + DC, DL + NC, and DL + KL. This refers to Don Lothario from the base game, and the four simultaneous relationships he has.
- In The Walking Dead Season Four, if Clementine spends time with Louis, he will carve their initials into his piano. Clementine can then choose to add a heart around them to indicate romantic love, or keep things platonic by leaving them as is.
- In Farnham Fables' fourth episode, the ZZT puzzle room contains a heart with the initials "V.D + N.I" written on it, surrounded by other graffiti-like comments. Given how it's a Dream Episode starring Theresa, this indicates that she's a Shipper on Deck for Vincent Doyle (her big brother) and Naigye Isia.
- Brawl in the Family pairs Kirby and Jigglypuff, and, in this strip, Kirby scrawls his affection for her... into Whispy Woods.
- In Gunnerkrigg Court, "S & B" graffiti show up occasionally on trees, desks, or bricks. It was speculated that the letters S and B mean "Sb" (antimony), but Word of Tom is that the couple in question are named Spinach and Beanhead. Here you can see graffiti with the full names.
- Reforming demoness Fuschia makes a F + C heart on the back of Criminy's favorite tree in Sinfest.
- In The Bird Feeder #39, "Carving," Floyd and Josh discover a heart carved into a tree with "A+B" inside of it. They're unable to figure out what it means, because Josh was never good at math.
- Lampshaded in Tiffany and Corey when Tiffany encounters graffiti on a tree and asks who takes a knife on a date.
- At the end of episode 1 of Tsuki Desu, Tsuki finds out someone wrote romantic graffiti about her and Chitose on the blackboard. She freaks out worrying he will be bullied for liking her.
- Ben 10: Alien Force: Max and Verdona did this on a tree by his favorite fishing hole.
- There was a Cartoon Network bumper for Codename: Kids Next Door that featured Nigel and Lizzie's names on a tree.
- There are two in the "Lovestruck" Valentine's ep of The Fairly OddParents. One was anti-love, however.
- Parodied in Home Movies:
Walter: We're trying to save the old oak tree!
Perry: Yeah, we carved our names in it!
Walter: Yeah, we peed on it!
Perry: Don't tell her that...
Walter: I mean we never pee on it!
- In The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, the supremely Shipper satisfying episode "Stranded" Cindy is seen carving one of these into a tree after she and Jimmy finally admit their feelings for each other. Despite a bit of a snapback once they're back to Retroville, it does serve as a turning point in their relationship development.
- On Kim Possible when Shego was under the influence of the Moodulator she used her plasma blasts to carve one of these into the wall. Of course seeing "D.D.+S.G." creeped out Drakken immensely.
- In the Lilo & Stitch: The Series episode "Angel", Stitch carves his and Angel's experiment numbers ("626 + 624") within a heart on a watermelon (as pictured above). However, Slushy (523), who is turned back to evil by Angel, freezes Stitch and the fruit, causing it to break apart.
- In an episode of Mighty Max, Max travels to ancient Egypt and tries to translate some hieroglyphs. The heiroglyphs turn out to be ancient Egyptian sweetie graffiti.
- Used by The Simpsons in the golf castle where Marge and Homer first made love.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Perfect Pear", Bright Mac carves a heart into a bouldernote with his and Pear Butter's cutie marks instead of their initials. It serves as an important place for both of them, marking the time Pear Butter breaks the news about her and her family's move, and later as the site of their wedding.
- In the Donald Duck short '"Donald's Diary'', Donald carves a heart on a tree for him and Daisy. The scene then cuts to the opposite side of the tree, revealing carvings from Daisy's past boyfriends.
- Jelly Jamm: In "White Trainers", Goomo becomes so obsessed with his new shoes that he goes as far as to write a heart-penetrated-by-arrow symbol on a tree, with the inside of the heart having Goomo's name and a drawing of one the shoes in it.