Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Middle school, for me, meant many things. Brown bag lunches with triangled tuna sandwiches and bags of Fritos; my own locker- bedecked with magnets and a plastic purple mirror; "exams" rather than tests; gym class- and a gym uniform. And note-passing.

The ideal supplies were wide-ruled notebook paper shorn of its curlicued frill, and neon highlighters. But one could make do with computer paper and pencil. We'd pick a friend- the addressee- and set to work composing a note. The real work then ensued. There were several complex ways to tuck and pleat your way to note-passer repute. The faux-envelope:

The fancy faux-envelope:

The knot:

But what mattered wasn't what the note said, or with what intricacy it was folded, but the connection between two students. It was bonding to form a devious liaison.  Even more so because there was actual effort behind the minor rebellion; the same can't be said about text messages, apparently the note-passing du jour. Just like my parents always gushed over handmade beglittered construction paper birthday cards, physical pen-and-paper notes express more than a few lines on a mobile screen. Mama Tulip blogger reminisces about her
"notes written and passed back and forth during class, notes I penned while sprawled on my daybed, listening to The Cure. Notes sent to boyfriends and best friends, a paper trail of my becoming that I kept in a shoe box under my bed....  I thought about that box and about all the notes I wrote, folded up and passed in my lifetime… and then it occurred to me that passing notes is something my kids probably won't do. I mean, in this day and age, passing notes is practically archaic. The thought makes me feel weepy. Also, old."
I've lamented the increasingly widespread abandonment of paper, from the Open Siddur Project to the superfluousness of bookmarks for eReader users. I've even waxed poetic about my love for paper itself. So even in this more recreational domain, note-passing, I feel a sense of nostalgia, plus a sadness for the generations to come whose computerized goofing-off will never be as fulfilling. It's more of a feat to hold an arts and crafts session on your desk then wait, hovering, until the perfectly timed moment to stick your hand across the aisle, than it is to punch some buttons and press send. I can only hope the middle-schoolers of today and tomorrow will set the phones down, and haul out the glue sticks and magic markers  for their parents' birthdays.


  1. I couldn't agree more. And I wish I could remember how we folded those letters into those shapes...

    Great post, see you soon!

  2. a shoebox of notes still sits at the bottom of my closet. LOVEXO