A Keepsake

It was a banner year. My essay on Fire Prevention was chosen by our principal Mr. Clarkson to read over the intercom system for all grades to hear. I didn’t miss a day of school and was singled out to stand for applause at our graduation ceremony. And I won the Sue Coffey award given to only one girl and one boy who demonstrated good citizenship throughout their years at Bartlett Elementary School. Everyone thought Caryl was a shoo-in, especially me, so what a pleasant surprise it was when my name was announced along with Jimmy B’s.! While all these happenings made my sixth-grade memorable, it was the tradition earned by the top dogs of the school that made that year even better. It was the choosing of a hardbound book in which I’d collect best wishes, personal messages, and maybe some helpful advice from my respected peers and teachers that capped it all off.

I recall the selecting of this all-important keepsake as being a bit stressful. I had been waiting since Kindergarten and I didn’t want to pick the wrong one. My mom took me to to the stationery department in Kmart where these treasures were displayed. Some monochrome, others multi-colored. Some plain, others graphic laden. After much deliberation I took possession of a 5” x 7” landscape oriented slim volume with a photographic image on the front. With blue rolling hills in the background, green trees and yellow grass filled the foreground. In the bottom left, a back of a seated man looked out onto the horizon. Why, I, an 11-year old girl would have chosen that particular one mystifies me!  No cute flowers, puppies, or balloons in neon rainbow colors. No, I chose a serene, muted color scene of someone pondering the meaning of life that now seems much too serious to resonate with a young girl. Who knows why I picked it? Maybe I was just mature for my age. All I know is the third week of June in 1973, I proudly handed it to everyone to sign. At the time I remember thinking, “I’ll keep this book forever!”

Bartlett Elementary School in my hometown

From my journal: May 10, 2011, Newbury Park, California

“Came across my autograph book from 6th grade – what a hoot!”

While organizing my journals recently, I happened to pick up my autograph book and perused it.  I reread the “Good Lucks” and “Best Wishes” received from just about every teacher, ones I had, and ones I didn’t have, as well as Mr. Clarkson. All straightforward and sincere.

The first page of my autograph book!

“Luck and happiness to a very sweet girl.” – Miss H.

“Good luck at Crosby!” – Mr. C.

“I wish you love, for without love nothing is possible; with love everything good will come to you!” – Mrs. R.

“Best of luck always!” – Mrs. G.

“Good luck in junior high.” – Mrs. D.

“May you have the best of luck in junior high. Work hard!” – Mrs. B.

“Best of luck in all you endeavor to do.” – Mr. B.

“Keep up the good work! Best wishes.” – Mr. P. B.

“Hope your world is right side up – happiness to you.” – Mrs. T.

“Best of luck and happiness in all you do!” – Mrs. A.

As for the kids I had known since I was 4 ½  years old, their messages, the ones I looked forward to reading again and again while reminiscing about the “good old days” written half a century ago, were truly a reflection of the times. Here is a sampling. 

“Remember A, Remember B, but C that you remember me!” – Susan

“I’m a little Chinese girl, I come from Chinatown.  Everytime I sign my name, I write it upside down.” – Naureen (who is not Chinese, but did sign her name upside down in my book!)

“2 good 2 be forgotten!” – Darlene

“To the tiniest but the mightiest in our class!” – Caryl (The girl I thought would get the Sue Coffey award. See, even her comment to me was nice!)

“Roses are red, pickles are green.  My face is nice and yours is a dream.” – Michelle

“I wish I was a grapefruit and here’s the reason why. When you came to eat me, I’d squirt you in the eye!” – Bonny

“To a sweet and conceterit gril.” – Georgia (who didn’t spell so well!)

“I hope we’re together in 7th grade.” – Denise

“Good luck at Crosby Jr. High.” – Janice

“2, 4, 6, 8 how the heck did you graduate?” – Kathy

“To Sharon, a nice friend who can tear up a volleyball game!” – Angela (Mind you, I was the shortest in my class, but maybe I was fiercer than I thought on the court!)

“Roses are red, violets are blue, everybody dies, when they see you.” – Michael

“Little Penguin, don’t freeze this summer!” – John (He alluded to my nickname Penguin, but why he didn’t write melt instead of freeze I’ll never know!)

“Have fun in Crosby…if you make it!  Just a little sisterly humor…” – Donna

“To a nice girl, FiFi.” – Lorenzo (FiFi was another of my nicknames!)

“By hook or by crook I’ll be the last to sign your autograph book.” – Lou Ann (and she was!)

The value of my autograph book isn’t in the words written on its pages, as I thought it would be when I was a kid. It is the connection to my hometown, childhood friends, and sweet memories of a kind and gentler time. This keepsake isn’t fancy or expensive, but to me, it is, and always will be, priceless.

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