“Where the paypaaaaa?!?”
And with this outburst, it suddenly became clear to me what I would do with my own journal. I opened it to the first blank page, took out a pen, and began to write.
“Where the paypaaaaa?!?” - Dominic
And thus, I had begun the Sayings Book.
In 5th grade, my friends were the neurotypicals, sociable and highly quotable. And me, the undiagnosed Aspie, I recorded. Why were sayings of so much interest to me? To understand how they socialized? To compile a catalog? To add to the conversation in my own way? I’m not sure. It just came naturally.
The Sayings Book captured everyday life. The unexpected, the comical, the absurd, the random.
At lunch time. “A spaghetti sandwich is so good to eat!” – Molly
In the computer lab, confusing the Logo turtle. “I don’t know how to Molly.” – Computer
Getting ready to throw down. “I’m a-gonna hafta hurt yeeeooou!” – Little Big Pants, a.k.a. Joe
Delighting in our (im)maturity. “Little kiddies! Yuck!” – Everyone
It captured our supporting cast of teachers and school staff.
There was Mr. Young, the custodian, who opened the front doors of the school to a stampede every morning. “Stop pooshin’, stop pooshin’.”
There was the lunch lady who manned the checkout counter like an assembly line. “You gettin’ anythin’ else, honey?”
There was the bus driver who inexplicably forbid our band instruments from sitting in our seats with us. “Up! We can’t take that suitcase back there!”
There was Mr. Carpenter, the existential gym teacher, who supervised the cafeteria at lunch time. “You throw pretzels when you sit in high chairs.”
It captured ourselves. As friends, we shared a bond of creativity, awareness, and silliness. Our core group were the gifted and talented, the teachers’ darlings, well-liked by our peers, snarky and irreverent amongst ourselves. The world was our Chief Crunchie for the taking.
Once the others realized they were being recorded, the Sayings Book gained notoriety. “Did you write that one down?” “Let me see!” It went everywhere with me. Instant catch phrases like, “That’s dumb!” were born and repeated, like a secret code. I took the disposable and gave it permanence. And yes, I appeared in the book as well, although much less frequently.
Then, there were the songs. A song was no less wacky than a saying, just longer, and with a melody. My friend Tracy started a series of bird-themed songs.
The bird, the bird, the big fat Molly bird,
Singing in his perch till dayyy-break,
Until he lays an egg, crack!
Then somebody takes the egg, and turns it into scrambled eggs,
Then it turns to mush, and then the person that ate it died,
Then it turns to meat,
And then the cow barfed,
[something something I forget]
Then a little Q-Bert came along and ate the cow.
Then Q-Bert licked a lollipop, and the cow was on the lollipop.
[something more I forget]
And the little bird died, playing a guitar.
And we did a whole series of Christmas song parodies.
Deck the halls with little Beadies, fa la la la la, la la la la.
Go to the store and buy them Wheaties, fa la la la la, la la la la.
Beadies love to eat them Wheaties, fa la la la la, la la la la.
They will give none to the needies, fa la la la la, la la la la!
The Sayings Book captured moments. It seemed we would always be this way. Always cracking each other up, always riffing on the world around us, always inhabiting our own little corner of the universe where we made the rules. There were no thoughts of middle school, and going our separate ways. No thoughts, until the time came.
I kept the Sayings Book years after I wrote its last entry. Years after I had lost touch with the cast of characters. Until I finally concluded that getting back in touch was never happening, and it seemed overly sentimental to hold onto this childish nostalgia any longer.
Not long afterward, Facebook came along, which as we all know, renders “never” a very short time. Many of us have reconnected. And wouldn’t you know, over 20 years later, one of the first things they recall is the Sayings Book. In fact, in a knock-me-out-of-my-chair moment, it was through a comment about the Sayings Book that I found a long-lost friend under an assumed name. They all ask me, “Do you still have it?” and I have to say no. But much of it stayed in my head, so ingrained was its mythology, and that lessens my regrets somewhat.
We realize now what we didn’t then, the value of this primary source, this time capsule. Nowadays, it’s so easy to preserve the present moment, with our cell phone cameras, videos, status updates, and Twitter. But I don’t think any of those things captures kids being kids in quite the same way as I did with an art class journal and a pen.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a Sayings Book is worth a thousand stories. In today’s often ridiculous times of career and bills and other burdens of adulthood, it’s worth remembering the way we were, when we were a different kind of ridiculous. When we could ponder the important things, like, what was a strep with feet? And what is the proper response to “Let’s change brains?” And what compelled Juan to ask the science teacher, “What is breakfast?”
And I, for one, am wracking my brain trying to remember what came after “And then the cow barfed.” I know it was something important.