Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian. The Smithsonian selected her photo to represent all teens from a specific decade.
Life as it’s happening.........
Expectation of moments in tangible form were always present when a roll of film was dropped off to be developed. It often seemed as if too much time had elapsed from first to completion of thirty-six pictures. Sometimes I’d actually just take a snapshot of ‘anything’ to finish; then the photo shop could turn out items my hands could feel, eyes could note blurry-or- okay-or perfect.
Print film vanished and digital was too different for me, the granddaughter of a photographer who carried his cumbersome equipment and had a darkroom where swishes and odors filled the area that turned blank paper into permanent faces. How might I preserve a loved one’s life as it is happening without a shutter’s click?
When my third grandchild was born, he was the first who lived in the same small town and I’d be able to watch grow up and not merely make a visit for an event, as happens with planned travel. My imaginary ‘shutter’ started with sleep-away summer camp; real mail. Yes, there were often the sentences about the rain, or a swim contest, disliking mandatory archery, enjoying paddling a canoe, but occasionally there were words with feelings of loneliness or delight. A discarded shoe box, without noticing handwriting and postage stamps, signalled time passing as envelopes stacked.
Middle school is often the most disliked part of formal education. Even from a wooden cabin near a quiet lake, concerns for those classes came by post. I began to copy the boy’s words from his stationery to my computer and filed them; I also began to type my letters to him so I had a copy. Time. Place. The file was plumping up.
By the time he began his university education, e-mail was a reality and I knew I was the holder of a life-as-it-is-happening, and that eventual gift to him would be one only I might do as our current society has few pages written in cursive of personal expression. Would a child born today even be able to read a yellowed hand-written note when postage was a penny on a postcard?
Since I taught both high school English and Art, and later, when offspring grown, taught college English Composition, I was asked to clarify poetry, themes and plots of fiction, Shakespeare’s prose, confusion with philosophic readings. He did not know his words would be a chronology. I saved my sentences along with his, and each back-and-forth with dates in order had me notice how his language skills, perception, emotions had gone from boy to man.
The Bachelor’s Degree had the flare common to all of them, and I sat and thought about the letter he’d sent when he began his sophomore year: ‘everyone looks so young to me’. That would possibly be a life-phrase now but kept quite secret from others. And I remembered the twenty-six page paper on Kant's principle of humanity written in his senior year of college and how enlarged his world had become since high school’s commencement.
As I made certain the page-order was correct, I paused when I read what I’d sent Sept. 21, 2005 “Do NOT get discouraged in anything at school. Call me or Papa for help, or just to listen to you. Never-ever feel you disappoint anyone; you have only to continue to learn as that will enrich your life. A grade is not the same thing as having learned something. I think you understand that; some people learn for a test, get a good grade, and promptly forget what they studied. I know that as a teacher. You remember, and can recall, and can use what you learn, and that is so impressive.” He was thirteen. Boy/Man.
I printed the single-spaced pages, took them to a shop to be bound. This was not a gift for graduation, but a personal thank you for sharing and trusting me with his thoughts and feelings for so many years. And, for him?