When I was a very young child, one of my favorite record albums was the Marlo Thomas creation, “Free to Be…You and Me.”
I loved many of the songs and stories, and can still quote the version of “Atalanta” that she and Alan Alda performed, but the song that I’ve always really connected with is “Glad to Have a Friend Like You.”
There’s a lyric in that song that goes like this:
Pearl told Earl that they could do a secret code
Earl told Pearl there was free ice-cream when it snowed
So they sent funny letters that contained myst’ry messages
And nobody knew just how they made it
And they raised up the window and they scooped all the snow together
Put milk and sugar in and ate it
And except for the names, that could have been me and any number of my friends. The year we lived on 16th street in Golden, CO, Heather and Kerry and Ben and I would beg our parents to let us make maple syrup candy with the fresh snow, and we’d make up codes and ciphers, and we were in and out of each other’s houses and apartments, and shared beds the way six and seven year olds do.
The codes and ciphers were my favorite, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the children’s novel, Alvin’s Secret Code was a favorite, not just because the story (deciphering codes to find a lost treasure) was great fun, but because it actually taught you how to read the codes you found all around you. Of course, that was before bar codes on price tags, when SKU numbers actually meant things you could understand without a scanner, but still.
Later, when I encountered Sherlock Holmes for the first time, one of my favorite stories was “The Adventure of the Dancing Men,” because a code (really a cipher) was integral to the plot.
Cut to tonight. Our friend Ben (a different Ben), and I have spent the evening making cookies and working on the code that came with the first envelope of the “12 Days of Holiday Bullshit” trinket from Cards Against Humanity. Well, really I’ve been baking, and Ben has been decoding/deciphering.
But, you see, I’m pretty good at codes and ciphers after all the practice I had as a kid…so he spent a few hours working on it, but I looked at it, figured out one of the keywords, and solved it in about five minutes.
Yeah, I’m annoying like that sometimes.
Solving the code to read the message was fun, but the walk down memory lane that I got in the process was even better.
And if that other Ben, Benjamin Simon, born 8/15/1970, is out there somewhere, I hope he remembers me as fondly as I remember him.
No Santa today. Instead, the entire spread of ornaments, which, in the picture, look like mass of junk until you start to decode the specific shapes.
Decoding by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.