Flat Stanley visits Cottage Grove
A large envelope from California arrived at our house earlier this month. As I opened it, a miniature little guy wearing slacks and a shirt and tie with neatly combed hair slid out onto the table. “Flat Stanley” was this unexpected visitor’s name and he had been sent to visit us by Joshua, our youngest grandson.
Joshua lives in Templeton, Calif. where his first grade class is studying geography in a unit called “Journeys.” As part of their study, they read the humorous story of “Flat Stanley” by Jeff Brown. Then they learn to write letters, address an envelope and complete a story map as they send a replica Stanley to faraway places and track his travels.
In the 1964 bedtime story, the fictitious Stanley Lambchop and his brother Arthur are given a big bulletin board to put pictures and posters on. Their dad hangs it over Stanley’s bed but one night the board crashes off the wall and flattens poor Stanley in his sleep. He wasn’t hurt but he was no longer round. He was flat as a pancake.
Stanley survived that ordeal and discovered ways to still play and have fun. He learned to enter locked rooms by sliding under the door and played with his brother by becoming his kite. One time, in a visit to an art museum he posed as a painting on the wall to help catch some thieves. Stanley’s parents even mailed him in an envelope and sent him on a journey to visit some friends in California.
Well, Flat Stanley arrived in our Oregon mailbox with an introduction from Mrs. Zemella, Joshua’s first grade teacher. It said, “Each student in the class has selected one far away friend to entertain Stanley on another trip. YOU ARE ONE OF THE LUCKY ONES! We hope you will return Stanley and tell your friend what he did for fun and what he learned about the place he was visiting.”
Then came some instructions. Oh, my. Suddenly, we were back in school again. This was no longer a ‘visit.’ It was a project. We had an assignment with a deadline.
Mrs. Zemella continued, “I have included a letter for you to fill out. Feel free to add your own personal note on it. We would also love to get back pictures of Stanley as he visited and did activities with you. Have fun with him and be creative! We will map Stanley’s travels and make a special bulletin board in our classroom to show where Stanley went and what he did. Please return Stanley to our school within the next couple of weeks.”
Yikes! Poor Stanley. We received him just three days before we were leaving for California. We had no time for adventures. Mowing the property, pulling weeds, washing clothes and packing suitcases were not exactly fun activities. What were we to do?
Well, we live in the country. He was from the city. So we photographed him doing all kinds of things around the property. First he was introduced to our animals: busy dogs, cats, birds and yard art raccoons and bears. He sat on the mower with grandpa and inspected his project car. An avid USC fan he was indignantly photographed with a bright green and yellow UO flag (and grandma).
Sunday morning at church, I scored my only celebrity photo. Stanley was photographed with our pastor and her husband. Yea! We then moved on to brunch where he cuddled up to the waitress and ate off our plates. That was a good day.
The next day, I put Stanley in the car with my camera. Unfortunately, I forgot and left him inside with the windows rolled up while I shopped. That was a near catastrophe. If the police had seen him in there without fresh air, I would have been hauled off to jail. That night Joshua called and asked, “So, how’s Stanley doing? I was too embarrassed to tell him.
One day we recorded a mini-excursion. We visited and were photographed with Rosie at the Sentinel and Beth at the Chamber of Commerce. But later, at the Family Relief Nursery luncheon, I forgot that Mayor Williams was also there and missed Stanley’s big photo op. I’ll bet none of the other kids would have had their picture taken with the town’s mayor. Of course, neither did Stanley …
At the Eugene airport I took a quick photo of Stanley and slid him safely back into his envelope where he resided until we arrived in California.
That weekend we attended his cousin’s track meet in Santa Barbara. There at the Channel Island’s league finals he got to cheer on Matthew as he ran the 110-meter hurdles and 300-meter hurdles. Even better, he got his picture taken with the Buena High School track team.
Saturday there was a joyful reunion between Joshua and Stanley. His family drove down to Ventura to attend Matthew’s Eagle Boy Scout Court of Honor. There were flags, balloons, cake and uniforms everywhere. It was a glorious day for pictures and autographs.
At the end of our visit, Joshua was happy to have Stanley back and I was happy to not have Stanley! Of course, then I had to fly home and finish my assignment. There were pictures to upload, edit, caption and send; plus a form to fill out. I hope Mrs. Zemella is pleased. I know that Joshua is.
In the book, Stanley’s brother Arthur uses an air pump to miraculously pump him back to his old self. Sadly, that didn’t happen in Cottage Grove. Maybe Joshua will bring him back this summer when we have more time to check out our town’s murals and covered bridges and go for a swim in the lake. We can’t promise to restore him but we do promise to not let him sleep under a bulletin board!