Thirty days hath September
April, June and November
February has twenty eight alone
All the rest have thirty-one
Except in Leap Year, that’s the time
When February’s Days are twenty-nine
Five hundred years ago in the 16th Century, someone penned this rhyme as a song to remember the number of days in each month. One of my elementary school teachers insisted that we memorize this poem to help us learn the calendar system. Later, during quiet quizzes, mouths twitched and twisted as youngsters recited the poem in silence. Another teacher, annoyed by the whispering lips, taught us the hills and valleys method.
I followed the teacher’s illustration and touched the tip of my right index finger to the knuckle above my left index finger. Up on the hills for 31-day months, down in the valleys for others. On the return trip for the second half of the year, tap the knuckle above the left ring finger, then downs and ups ending with December on a mountain top where I began with January.
When other teachers insisted that the students commit this to memory, I perfected an invisible method by resting my left wrist on my desk, fingers raised slightly, and traced the hills and valleys with my eyes. When I learned to type years later, that same left-hand position on the home row let my fingers soar to a perfect 65 words per minute score on a manual Underwood typewriter.
Now, if I need a memory jog for the hills and valleys months, I still use my right hand. I tap the time and date in the lower right corner of my computer task bar and a calendar pops on screen. No more ups and downs for me.
Ups and Downs is an updated Violet’s Vibes post that first appeared on January 28, 2010