Back in the day before kids wrote spitefully mean things about one another on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking media, they actually wrote pleasant words in something called an autograph book.
Instead of ‘sexting’ obscene photos to each other, they would draw funny, harmless illustrations, with an actual writing instrument like a pencil or pen, in your autograph book for you to remember them by.
Autograph books became passé eventually. But if you’re of a certain era, you’ll remember those small hardbound books and you might even have one stashed away in a box of school mementos like I do. I actually own three of these little gems from my elementary and junior high school days.
All this simple fad required was taking your book to school with you and asking your classmates to sign it. Mine had different pastel colored pages, and I still remember the girl who wrote, “Just because I’m writing on pink doesn’t mean that I stink.” I never thought she was stinky, so I always wondered why she wrote that particular ditty.
Friends penned funny lines in my book like “Yours till the ocean wears rubber pants to keep its bottom dry” and “I love you, I love you, I love you divine. Please give me your bubblegum, you are sitting on mine!” One silly friend wrote, “I went to your funeral. The preacher did say, This is the shell, the nut has passed away.”
Some entries proved sweet and sentimental like “In the golden chain of friendship, consider me a link” and “In the ocean of friends, count me as a permanent wave.” As a young girl, I always hoped some handsome young man would write something endearing in my book and my wish came true with this one: “Roses are red, violets are blue. Sugar is sweet, but I love you.”
On one special page, my elderly grandfather signed his name. Nothing more. Just his name. But I treasure that signature since both of my maternal grandparents died six months apart from one another when I was nine.
My mother purchased all three autograph books for me and I realize now that she must have wanted me to cherish memories of my school years just as she did. When my parents passed away and my sisters and I were clearing out all those years of accumulation at our folks’ house, we found our mother’s autograph book from school days dated 1929 to 1934.
The rhyming lines written in my mother’s book are clever and poetic. I suspect children today don’t memorize poetry very much like those youngsters of yesteryear. I’d like to share some of the sentiments from my mother’s autograph book and a simpler day and age with you along with my thoughts in parenthesis.
“Remember me well, remember me sick. And when you buy candy, remember me quick. Your friend, Hazel” (Hopefully, Hazel wasn’t just my mother’s friend when she had candy.)
“Roses are red, pumpkins are yellow. You’re the girl that stole my fellow. Your friend, Margaret” (Well, at least Margaret was still her friend!)
“When hills and vales divide us and you no more I see, pick up your pen and paper and write a line to me. Your friend, June” (Friends whether they were near or far.)
“Far out on the ocean carved on a rock are these three words, forget me not. A friend, Eleanora” (Isn’t that a sweet thought?)
“Remember me and bear in mind, a good true friend is hard to find. But when you find one good and true, change not the old one for the new. Your classmate, Marie” (Marie understood friendship well.)
“When you get old and ugly as people often do, remember that you have a friend that’s old and ugly too. Your friend, Esther Olive” (This dear lady is still alive at age 92, elderly but she’s certainly not ugly!)
“A wish for a friend is often given, but my wish for you is a home in heaven. Your dear friend, Mildred Marie” (Since Mildred Marie cared about my mom’s spiritual life, she was a dear friend.)
“When you get old and are mending britches, think of me between the stitches. Your friend, Carrie Belle” (This dear lady sewed a lot of stitches right beside my mother over the years.)
“I dipped my pen into the ink and grasped the album tight, but for my life I could not think a single thing to write. H.R.” (This gentleman was my mother’s cousin – a man of few words but a kind soul.)
My uncle wrote this one in my mother’s book: “Germany is a country but Texas is a state. I can see it on your face when you have a date.” (Since the word date was underlined, I think he suspected a romance was in the works for my mother and his brother, my father, don’t you?)
This entry tickles me pink. “Remember me and don’t forget you have a friend in [our town]. Pickles are sour, sugar is sweet. Candy is sticky and the [our town] girls are very tricky.” (I laugh out loud when I read this one, not just because the verse is silly, but because of the writer’s initials signed at the bottom of the page. Those initials belonged to my father.)
Out of all the clever, corny, or cherished verses written in my mother’s autograph album, I really like this one:
“When your walk on earth is ended and your paths no more I trod, may your name in gold be written in the autograph of God. Your cousin, Mabel” (I am thankful both my parents’ names are written in the Book of Life.)
My favorite entry though is one written and dated January 8, 1963 in one of my autograph books. It reads: “Dear Daughter, I wish I were a tea cup from which you drank your tea, and every time you’d take a sip, you’d think of your mommie. Lots of love, Mum.”
On this chilly day, Chapter 10, Page 27 in my book of Opportunity, I sip steaming, hot tea from my lovely tea cup given to me by one of my own dear daughters as I write these words. I think of my mother, her life, and all the things she taught me like cherishing memories from an old, faded autograph book. I think she taught me well and I pray I’ve taught my own daughters the same.