To a studious 12-year old girl back in 1964, BEST APRIL FOOLS PRANK!
“Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?” – Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
When I was a junior high girl, in 7th grade and 12 years old to be exact, I took my studies very seriously. Don’t get me wrong, because I played hard, too. I was on my school’s girls’ basketball and softball teams, traveling teams that made the cycle of a few local towns in southern New Hampshire. As I think back, I’m amazed at how progressive that little center of my universe really was back in 1964, no less, with girls’ sports, traveling teams with bus transportation, awesome uniforms and equipment and coaches that built and fostered a female camaraderie that I may not have understood the importance of then, but amazes me today.
I still remember those games, the bus rides and even the exact words of the little cheers we sang and laughed at on those bus rides. These experiences are something I need to capture in another blog post on another day.
Today, though, I will stick to the April Fools Prank topic. I hope!
I also loved learning. My junior high was part of a small town school that housed Kindergarten – 8th grade, just about 50 students in each grade and two classes per grade. It was this school with its inventive, progressive curriculum and teachers who fostered my great love of learning, of researching, of writing, of becoming a teacher myself.
It was also one of the teachers in this school, Mr. Peck, my 7th grade Social Studies teacher, who gave me a lifelong memory of April Fools Day. And to honor my 7th grade English teacher, Mr. Elliot, who taught me to love poetry, I will write my memory in verse, a Tanka to be exact…
A studious girl
In a dreadful conundrum
Book piles at hand,
Nary a hint, signal, clue
Of “Sloof Lirpa” assignment.
Having been given the assignment on March 31 to turn in a paper on April 1 — researching Sloof Lirpa — I knew I had to scramble to get it done. Remember, this was 1964. No internet. No Google. No nothing but our family encyclopedia set and maybe, if either Mom or Dad had time, a trip to the town library. If my homework wasn’t done, I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to head out with my friends to ride my bike, find a game of pick-up softball or baseball, explore the pond for frogs and pollywogs and things, the pond at the bottom of the old pit where we’d sled in the winter, or feed apples-turning brown to the horse in the big corral next to the baseball field.
It didn’t seem like these fun things would happen, though, on that March 31, 1964 afternoon.
The encyclopedia research was a bust.
Mom was busy. Dad wasn’t home from the Navy base. No library trip.
I called friends to see if any of them had a research source for Sloof Lirpa, and none of us had even bothered asking if it was a person, place or thing.
We were all in the same conundrum.
I think that maybe, just maybe, this was the first and perhaps the last time I didn’t complete a 7th grade homework assignment. And it was too dark to head out to play, anyway, when I closed the heavy, unfriendly-on-that-day family Britannicas…
The next morning in 1st period Social Studies class, Mr. Peck walked to the chalkboard, picked up a piece of chalk and in the unusual silence of a room of 7th graders, he wrote in bold, loud strokes:
“Spell it backwards,” Mr. Peck said as he turned slowly to face us, smiling broadly. Very, very broadly.
Some studious kids
In a resolved conundrum
Broke free with laughter
And some feigned indignation
At one, long bookworm-ish night
Of “April Fools” assignment.
I’ve never forgotten this April Fools Prank by Mr. Peck. Perhaps it’s because it is surrounded with such innocent memories of a wonderful time in my life. Perhaps it’s because it reminds me that each detail and each experience of life fits in so neatly, like a gigantic puzzle. Or maybe because a teacher could be so much fun, especially to a class of 7th grade adolescents entering those years of life where everything was about to change.
On that one day, April Fools Day 1964, everything was perfectly perfect in my life and I’m forever happy that it’s part of My Story to tell.