Wise words, and wiseguys

I recently found my eighth- grade autograph book buried in a box of memorabilia. It was as though I had discovered a personal time capsule. The 48-star flag that took up nearly one whole page in the beginning hovered over the Pledge of Allegiance, which did not yet contain the phrase "under God." A youthful looking Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president, and I listed Amelia Earhart as my hero. I could not dream that meeting her when she spoke in our school later that year would lead to a lifelong profession in aviation.

I noted that "ball" was my favorite game. During those Depression days, that meant stickball, punchball, or stoop ball, which we played in the streets nearly every day without uniforms, parents, coaches, or even real bats or baseballs, which we couldn't afford. Boys and girls played on impromptu teams of whoever happened to be outdoors at the time.

But of course it was the autographs that were all-important. Here were more surprises. Although we were not even in high school yet, there was a remarkable preoccupation with matrimony and parenthood.

Needles and pins,

needles and pins,

when you get married

your troubles begin.

and

First comes love,

then comes marriage,

then comes Hazel

with a baby carriage.

But mostly we wanted to outdo each other with sarcastic verses.

Snow is white,

coal is black,

do me a favor

and sit on a tack.

This from my cousin who would be my future maid of honor at my wedding.

Those were the unsentimental ones that I liked best, and the way I wrote in other people's autograph books. It was the age in which my own daughter, years later, would insist that I let her off a block from school so that none of her classmates would see that she actually had a mother, for goodness sake.

Principal David W. Robinson just wrote his name. Could he have known that his habit of having us sing "Home on the Range" at each weekly assembly, combined with the dozens of Saturday-matinee cowboy movies, inspired me with the hope of someday moving to those wonderful wide- open spaces, away from our crowded, smoky, industrial city, which I did.

Those were also the days when religion could be mentioned in public school.

My teacher, A. B. Butler wrote, "Heaven is not reached by a single bound, but we build a ladder on which to rise, from lowly earth to vaulted skies."

And music teacher Moritz E. Schwartz drew a musical scale on which he wrote, "Now thank we all our God," and signed it "your friend," which he surely was.

But it was the autographs of family and other relatives that filled entire pages with loving advice and wishes.

"May you have happiness your whole life through," was from Grandfather.

"Do what is right and bring happiness to others," describes my mother as much as her admonition to me.

Uncle Harold said, "Service well-rendered is its own reward. It gives greater satisfaction and peace than gold." Yes, that was my uncle's creed as well as advice.

And then there was "the sincere wish of your loving grandmother that your life would be filled with true happiness if...." followed by the stanza of a favorite hymn.

What surprises me now is how I pass quickly over the sarcastic verses with a silent chuckle, and linger on the ones that I am sure embarrassed me at the time, much as I embarrassed my eighth-grade daughter with any show of sentiment.

I realized that I had found a buried treasure of memories of wonderful people whose written pages I had forgotten after all these years. Even though I may not have lived up to all their expectations, I am glad I located my personal time capsule. I won't bury it again, but will occasionally reread all those loving messages of years ago.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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