We’ve moved a lot, so we have friends all over the country, which means that when our little friends around the country are in about the second grade and it’s Flat Stanley time, folks think of us. I’m flattered. They think we live in an interesting enough place that their second grader wouldn’t be embarrassed to send her project to us. I mean, the WHOLE class will know where he went. It’s a lot of pressure for a second grader.
Oh, wait. You haven’t met Flat Stanley? Well, Stanley Lambchop is a kid (in a children’s book) who goes to sleep one night, and while he’s asleep his bulletin board falls on him and flattens him as flat as a pancake. His family discovers him in this condition and decides to have breakfast . . . “Heavens.” “Gosh! Stanley’s flat!” “Darndest thing I’ve ever seen.” “Let’s have breakfast . . .” (Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.) Later, after breakfast, his dad takes him to the doctor and gets the diagnosis that Stanley is flat. (Helpful!) Stanley gets used to being flat and finds that he can benefit from his new condition. (He is able to make his brother incredibly jealous.) One day Stanley receives an invitation to visit his friend who has recently moved to California. The Lambchops lament that plane and train tickets are so very expensive … but then they get the idea to mail him to his friend’s house. So they stick him in an envelope, toss in an egg salad sandwich, plop him in a mailbox on the corner, and go home. (They did put “a great many” stamps on the envelope, so I guess that’s good.) Stanley has all sorts of fun and exciting adventures and returns to tell his family all about them.
At some point a second grade teacher decided to have his class make paper doll Stanleys and mail them to friends and family to learn about geography, letter writing, and faith in fellow man. And it caught on. Schoolchildren all over the country mail off their lovingly colored Flat Stanleys to friends and family and wait eagerly to see what wonderful adventures Stanley will have and what wonderful souvenirs he’ll bring back with him.
I have a confession: Flat Stanley makes me feel completely inadequate. I’m never sure if we’re doing the whole Flat Stanley “thing” right. I would love to see what the other families do with Flat Stanley; what do they send back with him? I have a vivid imagination, so I envision that all the other families send back unique treats found only in quaint regional shops along with tailor made flat clothing specific to the season and activities that Stan enjoys most. They include a huge poster-sized map with pins indicating all the fantastic places they took their guest. They probably include a display of glossy photos from the Disney cruise they took with Stanley where Stanley got to meet Selena Gomez and actually got to sing with her! They did all this and got Stanley safely back to his second grade home room within two weeks. I hate my imagination.
We’d recently received a text messages from my cousin wondering if Stanley was okay, and when he’d be returning. I assured her that Stanley was fine and that we had a couple more things planned to do with him, but he’d be back very soon.
We took Stanley up to the mountains to see some spectacular views. We chose a route we’d never been on before so it would be exciting for all of us, but the route wasn’t so spectacular. So that was a bummer. And some of the pictures turned out blurry.
The next week we buckled Stanley into the car (safety first!) and headed over to the Air Force Academy.
We took Stanley to the gift shop and took him to see some planes. In case you’re wondering, it’s really difficult to get a whole B-52 Bomber and Stanley in a shot so that Stanley doesn’t look like a speck.
We planned to take him to the Garden of the Gods, but whoever was supposed to remember him, didn’t. So that took a couple tries.
We planned to take pictures of Stanley at the Cherry Creek reservoir and Botanical Gardens in Denver, but when we got to Denver we realized we’d forgotten to put him in the car. I wasn’t driving back up to Denver!
Another Monday rolled around, and I decided that we really did have to get poor Stanley back to Virginia. We hadn’t taken many pictures with Stanley around the ranch, so since Ken was off work and I was overwhelmed with English papers I handed him the paper doll and asked if he’d help me out by taking Stan down to the barn and taking a few photos of him with the horses and the cow.
Camera in one hand, Stanley in the other, he called to Madeline as he headed for the barn.
About twenty minutes later Ken walked in the front door slightly out of breath.
I thought he was joking so I smiled, winked, and went back to grading papers. He’s fond of making me laugh and catching me off guard; he has a quick wit and a wry sense of humor (there’s nothing
sexier more adorable than a man who can make you laugh). I was marking up the paper and he was just standing there staring at me. “No, really. I’m not joking. The cow ate Flat Stanley.”
I still thought he was joking, so I gave him a forced smile: one that said, I have a ton of work to do, so could you please move on? He didn’t move. He just started laughing and trying to explain how it all happened. “I reached in and tried to grab him but it all happened so fast.”
“No. No. No. Please tell me you’re joking. Please. Please. Please.”
At that moment Madeline burst through the door, “MOM! Galadriel ate Stanley!
“Hey, Mom, why don’t you make a tombstone and put his name on it and send it back?”
“Hey, Mom, why don’t we send a piece of black construction paper and say it’s Stanley’s view from inside the stomach.”
“Send a picture of a flat hamburger or a flat steak with Stanley’s name on it.”
“Wait until tomorrow; he’ll be back out.”
My boys are so helpful.
After the hysterical laughter died down, the gravity of the situation became clear: we KILLED Flat Stanley. He was gone.
Unless . . .
My internet search for a “Flat Stanley printable template” nearly brought me to tears. Apparently, this version of Flat Stanley was a version that was
- A. No longer in circulation
- B. The creative genius of this particular second grade teacher in Virginia
- C. In one of the preview-less downloadable files available for $15.95
- D. A test to see if we are fit to be parents
I did, however, find Multicultural Flat Stanley, Flat Grannies on Safari, Flat Skinny, FEMA Flat Stanley, Flat Aisha, Flat Gramps, and Flat Fanny (no, I did not make that one up).
After a lengthy search, I finally found a Flat Stanley that was similar enough to the one we were entrusted with, but I can’t lie and send back a forged Flat Stanley because
- A. It would be wrong to lie
- B. We could never color him as well as Maya did
- C. Even if we could color him as well as Maya did, Maya would know. (She’s one of the brightest kids I’ve ever met.)
- D. All of the above
If we don’t send Stanley back at all, our little cousin is going to have to endure years of therapy just to trust anyone again. I can’t let that happen! I’m going to have to perform a miracle and resurrect Flat Stanley. (Just as soon as I find that big tub of crayons I know we have somewhere in this house . . .)
Meet Flat Stanley 2.0.
Ever feel completely inadequate, only to have life unequivocally confirm that you are indeed inadequate? Well, you’re not alone. We all fall short . . . (I didn’t make that up.) It’s a small consolation, but it’s all I’ve got.
Oh, I’ve also got unique treats found only in quaint regional shops along with tailor made flat clothing specific to the season and activities that Stanley enjoyed most. And a call in to Selena Gomez. I’m just waiting to hear back . . . (Sometimes I might be tempted to overcompensate.)