Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Autograph Frontispiece

The lines above are from the front page in my mother’s Autograph Book, a little volume that has long been a source of fascination to me.

Once upon a time, you see, it was the fashion, at major Life-Cycle Events, to have an Autograph Book in which one would collect the well-wishes of friends and family, rendered indelibly in pen and ink.

It is, for the most part, a Lost Art today, although it lives on in scrawled signatures in high school and college yearbooks. But Mom’s little book dates from January of 1942, when she was graduated from the ninth grade. She had turned 14 the prior month.

The signatures and little poems in the book are from an assortment of relatives, almost all of whom have passed on to the Next World; and friends, most of whose names are lost in the mists of time.

There are notes from my grandparents, short and sweet:

“To my darling daughter – May all your wishes come true. This is what I wish you forever. Your loving dad.”

“Need I say, I wish you the best of every thing this world has to offer – Mom.”

There’s one page with a lengthy inscription in Yiddish. The handwriting is too illegible for me to decipher more than a few words.

There’s a note from Mom’s Aunt Dotty – long gone now: “I wish you a garden of Roses. I wish you children with turned up noses.” Yeah, good luck with that.

There’s a note from a friend: “May your life be like spaghetti – long and smooth. (How’s about ice-skating with me someday, huh?)”

There are sentiments that sound technologically or geographically quaint today: “May your life be as bright as Edison’s electric light.” “May your life be as bright as ‘Luna Park’ at night.” Any of my Esteemed Readers remember Coney Island’s Luna Park?

There’s cattiness: “May your life be as long as your tongue.”

There’s a spirit of budding feminism:

“When you get married
And your husband gets cross,
Pick up the broomstick,
And say, ‘I’m the boss!’”

There’s a bit of Wishful Thinking:

“In 50 years when down you sits,
Remember the name of Horowitz.
An old pal,
Your future lover,
Irwin Horowitz.”

[Not much ever came of that, as far as we know…]

There are taglines and equations:

Yours ’til butter flies.

2  good
2  me
2  be
4  gotten
10 derly yours

And there’s a solitary reference to the new World War into which the United States had been propelled less than two months prior: “V - ...”

But my favorite is the one my Uncle Phil wrote:

Phil's Autograph

In this Age of Electronica, the art of the autograph is fast vanishing...and that’s too bad. But I have my Mom’s little book, and when I open it, those voices of long ago speak to me.

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