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Holly Nadler

Several thousand roses later, Holly embraces the job.

 Roses are red
Yours are yellow
You are loved
Very much by this fellow

Such was the poem my new boyfriend, Marty Nadler, enclosed with a pot of yellow roses which I placed on the deck of our funky apartment on what was known colloquially as Dog Beach in Malibu.

Marty and I had recently moved in together, and for our first Valentine’s Day he gave me those roses and the rhyme. You might have said he was a better comedy writer than a poet — at that time he was story editor on the hit TV show “Laverne & Shirley” — but I was enchanted by this attempt at a sonnet. If you put it up there with “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate,” it might come up short, but for the rest of our years together — 25 in all — we invoked this poem when we felt affectionate. Or needed a good laugh.

Relationships are built on memories. Inevitably there are two piles, one GOOD, one BAD, and whichever one outweighs the other is going to be the decider. Valentine’s Day presents all lovers with an opportunity to place another weight on the GOOD side of the scale.

Lots and lots of leaves to sweep.

Lots and lots of leaves to sweep. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

With this idea that Valentine’s Day is more than a cheap bid for consumer dollars, I volunteered to help this past Monday at Morrice Florist in Vineyard Haven. Although I have no sweetie of my own, and find all my need for unconditional love met by my Boston terrier, I nonetheless threw myself into this heady occasion to see how things fared on the love front as signified by the purchase of flowers.

I was greeted by owner Kim O’Callahan. It was 10:30 in the morning, and she was already ambushed by lots and lots of red roses spread out on the long work table facing the eastern bank of windows. Boxes of flowers, newly delivered, were stacked up close behind her.

“This is our biggest time of the year!” she said. “It’s the whole reason to keep the heat on in the winter. We get orders coming in all this week, but most of the men come in on the 14th. They pack the store. Sometimes there’s a line out the door.”

I wondered how 99 percent of the men in the world could be Last Minute Guys? Maybe that explained why men rushed their countries into war? They sat around and stood around and played around and took meetings until in the 11th hour when they phoned their generals and said, “What the heck, let’s send in the troops and drop a whole buncha bombs!”

The rose among the thorns, indeed. Luckily, there's a tool for that.

The rose among the thorns, indeed. Luckily, there’s a tool for that. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

But there was no time for further scrutiny because I was handed a few dozen roses and a clawed device for stripping down the leaves and thorns. Kim’s helper, Linda Carroll, took whole batches of flower stems and lopped off the ends in a single stroke with a pen knife. Then Kim, Linda, Laurie Meyst, and I ripped through bundles of tulips, baby’s breath, blue and white hydrangeas, lavender mums, and a ton of more red roses with a zeal that astonished me. I wondered if the indescribably sweet fragrance of flowers lifted one’s mood, and maybe even, while it was at it, healed boo boos and cured cancer.

I told the others about the roses Marty would give me all the time in our early days — until I heard how expensive they were, whereupon I said to him, “Could you just give me the cash?”

Moments like that put a weight on the BAD side of the love scale.

Out in the store, Sue Peters helped a man in his forties, tall, thin, with a black cap that read “ARMY” on it. I sidled out to meet this fellow who was ordering flowers on the early side. His girlfriend had said ix-nay on the flowers, but this smart man double-checked with his g.f.’s b.g.f. who said, “Of course get her flowers! And send them to her work place!”

Every woman wants others to see what a sweet guy she has, right?

Back in the work room, Kim related stories about her family. The business had originally belonged to her grandparents. One time grandpa was dispatched to Boston with a wad of money to buy roses. The blizzard of ’78 blew in, and grandpa filled the time by drinking. He returned to the Island with a new Camaro.

Some years later, Kim’s mom fell sick and underwent chemotherapy, but she still insisted on supervising the crew at the Valentine’s rush. When Kim showed up, her mother and her helpers, pranksters all, pretended to be engrossed in a game of cards around a folding table.

After I’d spent hours amid the scent of flowers, and with tumblers of blossoms we’d prepped now encircling the workplace, I was intoxicated. I wanted someone to buy me roses.

I dialed Marty in Florida. “Would you like to order some roses for the mother of your son?”

He said without missing a beat, “I called Morrice’s earlier. No matter how much I begged, they refused to deliver a bouquet of dead flowers.”

As millennials write in their texts, hahahahahahaha!

I could always send myself some roses, but…I’d rather have the cash.

2
In a Bel Air, California, backyard, the four Beatles signed this card for Island author Susan Branch.

Fifty years ago — on Sunday, February 9, 1964 — The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. The Times asked Islanders to share their most vivid Beatles memories, from that first appearance on TV to the movies and concerts and the songs that made us think or see (or hear) the world differently. We got so many responses, we will be running them in a series over the next week. Got a good Beatles story? Remember where you were when they were on TV, or when you saw A Hard Day’s Night, or when you first heard Hey Jude? Have a personal run-in with John, Paul, George, or Ringo? And tell us: What’s your favorite Beatles song? Your favorite Beatle? Writes us at onIsland@mvtimes.com.

Sue Branch

So, Ed Sullivan: There was lots of excitement about the event, everyone at school was talking about it, it was on the news, they were on the radio constantly. We already knew all the words to all the songs. My family all knew the Beatles were going to be on TV that night. Not that we ever missed Ed Sullivan anyway, but that night it felt like Christmas around the dinner table, there was that kind of excitement in the air.

Sue Branch at 16, surrounded by sisters (she also had three brothers), around the time of the Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Sue Branch at 16, surrounded by sisters (she also had three brothers), around the time of the Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. — courtesy Susan Branch

I was sixteen and the oldest of eight children.  After me there were four boys and then three girls; everyone was about two years apart. We had two TV’s, one in the family room and one in the living room. I spent the entire time running between the two TV’s followed by hordes of children — I was trying to be alone so I could concentrate, just me and the Beatles, but because I was the “teenager” everyone wanted to be with me while I was watching them. My brothers wanted to know if I felt like screaming, was I going to scream. So they followed me, leaping around in their pajamas. They watched me, sang along with them, yeah, yeah, yeah, and I couldn’t get away. But I saw them, got to choose my favorite, they were wonderful, and they were mine.  And that’s all that mattered.

OK, How to choose one song?  Are people able to do that?  Girl; All My Lovin; For No One; Things we Said Today; Baby’s in Black, for starters.

Excerpted from Ms. Branch’s book, “Girlfriends Forever:”

Karen Bennett was…my best friend all through high school…

Our most famous escapade is that (get ready) we MET THE BEATLES! Yes! After their first concert at the Hollywood Bowl, on a tip extracted from an overwhelmed cab driver, we stalked them into Bel Air (stopping first at a gas station to make ourselves beautiful, just in case). There were four or five cars out front when we found the house, too many for us, so we parked a couple of streets away and began to reconnoiter the neighborhood. Whispering our plan, we went through backyards in unfamiliar territory, arriving just in time (about midnight) to see them (the boys) get out of the pool and run to the house in the moonlight in their little tiny English bathing suits.

After a few minutes we followed them up to the wide porch where we could hear piano playing and singing and laughing, but couldn’t see anything because the curtains were pulled. We had a perfect view of the staircase, however, and as we stood there trying to figure out what to do next, John came bounding down the stairs, in his underwear (jockeys). Karen saw him first and threw herself against a well. I was behind her, didn’t see him coming and suddenly we were eyeball to eyeball. Very soon, a manager came out, scraped us off the floor and suggested we “come back tomorrow.” (Like this was easy.)

It took a full day of begging phone calls to my dad’s work the next day before he finally let me have the car. By this time the whole world knew they were there: “no parking” signs were everywhere and it was a teenage mob scene. But we had the lay of the land from the night before. Nonchalantly, we strolled past the Bel Air police, got ourselves into a backyard and we were home free — up past the pool and there they all stood on the porch!

John flapped his elbows at us and barked (despite our special beauty stop, he didn’t seem to remember us from the night before), Ringo flashed his rings, Paul was adorable, and George seemed shy.

We got their autographs and hid them under our clothes as we boldly walked past the police — discovering the police were just as excited as we were, wanting to hear about everthing!

We sang “I’ll Follow the Sun,” “Baby’s in Black,” “She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” all the way  home, our dream fulfilled, our lives blessed…”

Susan Branch is a Vineyard author, raised in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California. You can find her book at susanbranch.com.

Holly Nadler

I myself was always more of a Stones fan because they were bad boys and I was a spoiled teen. But now I’m in awe of the Beatles’ late work when John Lennon was turning into a great mystic. Think of the lyrics: “Black bird singing in the dead of night . . . you were always waiting for this moment to arise / you were always waiting for this moment to be free / black bird fly into the light of the dark black sky.” Isn’t that a perfect metaphor for the moment of death? And then after that? Who knows?

Holly Nadler, is a writer and frequent Times contributor.

For more Martha’s Vineyard Beatles stories, visit here.