A teacher makes her mark

A thin black book of many-colored pages has put me in fast rewind to my fifth-grade teacher. The one who kept me after school to write "I will not speak without permission" 500 times on the blackboard.

The book, found among things that only parents would preserve, is labeled "AUTOGRAPHS." The first page says "School Day Treasures of," followed by a space for my name in handwriting influenced, not conquered, by the Palmer Method.

I remember how that teacher opened her purse and sent me downtown (a very small town) for hamburgers after the 500th scrawl. I'd forgotten what she later wrote in the little book that now gives me a retro lift. It comes after childishly penciled inscriptions like these hits of 1934:

When you get married and live on the lake, give me a piece of your wedding cake.

When you get big and stand on a stump, think of me before you jump.

I love you little.

I love you big.

I love you like a little pig.


do it upside down.

from the rest, I'll

But just to be different

I'll do it without a frown.

in your Autograph book.

You asked me to write

Finally, there is the immaculate copperplate script of the teacher whose discipline was tempered with hamburgers:

I've taken an awfully long time to write in your book - but that's because I've wanted to write something awfully nice to you (for I think you're a rather fine person - you know).


I wasn't the only pupil she saw with an encouraging eye. I wish she'd had an autograph book.

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