Remember Flat Stanley? I’m sure many of you reading this are experiencing a burst of nostalgia. “Ah, yes!” you might think, “I remember sending Flat Stanley to my family in Michigan and receiving a cool postcard!”
Alternately, I may have accidentally rekindled anger toward lazy relatives who made up excuses for putting minimal effort into the project: “Oh, Stanley? He was . . . er . . . he was the one taking the photo! That’s why he’s nowhere to be seen . . . ”
Well, you know you’ve grown up when—rather than sending your two-dimensional pal to friends in far-off places—you become the one who gets to document his incredible journey. (Seriously, as soon as you receive a ballot, a bank statement, and a Flat Stanley in your mailbox, you know you have officially become an adult.)
A few weeks ago, I had the fun of being asked to show a preschooler’s Flat Stanley around Scotland, where I was studying. Unfortunately, the sudden spread of the current pandemic sent me packing long before I’d planned, but looking back on the photos I took with Stanley during my last few weeks abroad helped restore my good humor. (Or, as we say in the UK, humour.) I’ll have to sort out which of the following photos are preschool-friendly, but I’ll share them all here since those of you also in quarantine may enjoy the imaginative escape.
Flat Stanley’s Scottish Adventure
Flat Stanley arrived on a normal Scottish day. It was cold, windy, and rainy. He immediately regretted his choice of business casual attire for, although he looked classy, he was thoroughly chilled.
Ryanne, Stanley’s hostess, was kind enough to draw him a kilt and he found it both a functional and freeing fashion choice. Now properly attired, he was ready to live his best Scottish life.
Since it was too stormy to go outside, Stanley had fun building a fort out of Ryanne’s library books.
Stanley discovered that Bailey’s Irish cream makes hot cocoa much more delicious. Ryanne was careful to cut him off before this became a problem.
When the sun finally came out, Stanley explored the ruins of St. Andrew’s cathedral but when the wind nearly blew him away, he had to return to the safety of Ryanne’s backpack. He seemed woefully ignorant of the cathedral’s historical significance anyway.
Hanging on tight so as not to fly across the sea to continental Europe, Stanley enjoyed watching the waves at the beach.
To Stanley’s dismay, however, he learned the old lesson of “It’s all fun and games until someone gets kilt” when some rival clansmen ran his kilt up the flagpole.
Having recovered from his shock, Stanley joined Ryanne and a friend on a day trip to Cupar, a nearby town. He took a selfie but tried to delete it when he noticed that he had a smudge on his “good side.”
Both Ryanne and her friend settled into a café to work on their term papers and Stanley kindly offered his editorial assistance.
Unfortunately, Stanley began to take his duties too seriously, giving Ryanne the worst grade of her life and smiling heartlessly all the while.
Stanley did not stop there, however, but—with a maniacal laugh—relentlessly marked-up Ryanne’s entire paper.
Suddenly, though, Stanley stopped. Still smiling emptily, he realized something horrific.
He had been red-penning Ryanne’s paper and yet, he himself was made of paper!
Shocked at the monstrosity of ruthlessly editing pages upon pages of his own Flat Stanley flesh, he screamed.
As his outburst echoed throughout the café and faded once more into silence, Stanley sighed. “After all,” he realized, “‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely’ is a lesson we all must learn.”
And yet, despite his regained composure, Stanley wondered how many Flat friends might have been made from the paper Ryanne wasted on her rough draft. He decided, though, that this is a tricky ethical question far beyond his elementary education.
Instead of continuing to wrestle with ethics, Stanley decided to enjoy some local art. He especially liked this picture of a highland cow, also called a “hairy coo.” He wanted to bring one home as a pet, but Ryanne explained patiently that the US customs agents would not be supportive of this idea.
World Book Day happened to take place during Stanley’s visit. Being in Scotland, he decided to dress up as Harry Potter.
Sadly, both Stanley and Ryanne had to return to the United States unexpectedly due to travel bans in response to the spread of a pandemic. Stanley, fortunately, cannot catch anything, but he is spending two weeks in quarantine with his hostess as an act of solidarity. Jet-lagged and tired, Stanley is now enjoying a bit of rest and working on his reading list which, ironically, includes Fahrenheit 451.