Nothing hateful about No. 8

When I was 8, my dad helped me work on my entry for the Cub Scouts’ Pinewood Derby. We — mostly he — shaped the block of pine into something resembling a racecar. We attached the wheels and gave it a coat of blue paint, which was my favorite color.

When the paint was dry he asked me what number I wanted for my car. “Eight,” I said immediately. “It’s my favorite number.”

I’m not sure if that was the first moment I claimed eight as my own, but I do know that from at least that day on, it was my go-to number. Doesn’t everyone have a favorite number?

Maybe it was because I was 8 years old, or maybe it was because I was born during August, the eighth month. Maybe it was because I liked the shape, those two circles one on top of the other, or maybe I enjoyed the way my pencil would start out with a curve, cross over and continue back to the beginning where I could keep going if I wanted.

In her poem “Cardinal Ideograms,” May Swenson describes the shape as “the universe in diagram:/A cosmic hourglass.” That’s a pretty heavy way to look at it when you are a kid.

In fact, 8 turned on it’s side (sometimes referred to as a “lazy eight’) is often used as a symbol for infinity. Infinity also is a pretty heavy concept for a kid of any age.

There are nearly an infinite number of web sites which attempt to explain the meaning and significance of eight in Biblical, spiritual, mystical and/or numerological ways. I have to admit I am skeptical of the idea that there is some secret numerical code in the universe that can be discovered and which will explain everything, but I realize some people enjoy finding patterns in seemingly random or coincidental numbers.

Although I call eight my favorite number, I don’t believe it has any particular magical powers. If eight were my “lucky” number, seems like I would have won the lottery by now.

It’s not hard to find coincidences if that is what you are looking for. If I were to start looking for connections between the number eight and my life, I would take into account that I was born during the eighth month. When I was 8 years old, my dad bought an Oldsmobile 88, and I was in the eighth grade when I got my first guitar, the body of which, when you think about it, is shaped sort of like an eight. Also, “eight” is spelled with a silent “gh” just like my last name. Eerie.

Because we are in the first days of August, the number eight will start playing more of a roll in my day-to-day life if for no other reason than I will need it to write the date. Although August is the eighth month in the calendar year, the prefix for October, the 10th month, means “eight.” This was a bit confusing for my kid brain until I learned that the first month of the old Roman calendar was March. Eventually, I puzzled it out.

I always assumed octo didn’t sound like eight because they weren’t related. I figured one was Latin, in the Romance language family, and the other was English which is in the Germanic family. A little research revealed that eight comes from the Middle English eighte which evolved from the Old English eahta which is related to Old German ahto which is just a stone’s throw away from the Latin octo. So, I guess they are kin after all. That’s what I get for assuming.

For the rest of this month I’m going to revel in all things eight. I’ll have 8 o’clock coffee in the mornings and V-8 vegetable juice later in the day. I’ll continue my quest to teach myself piano by rocking those 88s while I work on that Beatles classic, “Eight Days a Week.” It’s one of my favorites.