Among my earliest memories of writing my own thoughts and ideas I find myself playing with secret codes when I was in about the second grade. My older brother, Keith, had been using secret codes to share messages with Ronnie who lived up the road, and I thought it looked like fun.
The easiest code they were writing called for two sheets of paper and a piece of carbon paper. The trick was getting the papers in the right position before starting to write--an original copy on top, a second sheet under that which would carry the encoded message, and beneath it all was a sheet of carbon paper with the carbon side up. Then when you wrote the message correctly on the top sheet of paper, it would appear backwards on the backside of the second sheet of paper. It was a great trick!
I discovered two problems with my newfound trick. The first was figuring out whom to write a message to since my older brother preferred writing to the neighbor boy, and my younger brothers and sister couldn't read yet. Then the second problem was figuring out what to say in my secret message if I did figure out whom to send it to. This was probably my first encounter with writer's block.
That's when the idea of writing an invitation to a party came to me. Since the writing was all backwards, it seemed perfect for an invitation to a backwards party. There had been a backwards Sunday School party at church recently where everyone dressed with their clothes on backwards or wrong side out, and with their shoes on the wrong feet. My family had recently moved to the farm in Rochester, Indiana, that had been in my father's family for generations. There was also a new family who had moved into the farmhouse across the road and they had four young children. We could invite them to join us for a backwards party in our clubhouse. With Mama's permission, I wrote the invitation, in code of course, and took it to Mrs. Ogle across the road. She didn't understand it, so I showed her how to hold it up to a mirror to read it. And what joy! She said they would come to my party!
When the day arrived for the party, the girls, Carol and Doris, came in dresses, though I don't recall what her son, Donnie, wore. They didn't wear anything wrong side out or backwards. I panicked! I guess in all the excitement I had forgotten to explain to her about the clubhouse. Our clubhouse was nothing more than the old 5 by 7 foot abandoned hog-house behind the barn. To fix it up for the party we had brushed out the spider webs and used some crepe paper to attempt to make it more festive. I had also planned an activity or two to play in it. But I would NEVER wear one of my dresses to play in the clubhouse! We even had to climb in through the door in the roof!
If it bothered Mrs. Ogle, she never let
on. She let the children take their clothes off and put them back on wrong side out
and backwards. And the party began! I was quite proud to have pulled off the
party, but I also learned something about the importance of including all the important
details in an invitation that day.
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