“I only ask one thing,” I jokingly say to the group of kids anxious to start their art project. “Don’t destroy my face.” The minute I explain that I’m not talking about my actual face but instead the newspapers spread across their art tables, their blank stares turn to smiles.
The truth is, in this growing society of e-Everything, things in print that are actually printed on paper are becoming fewer and fewer. And as someone who has her face and words on some of these precious pieces of paper, I probably think a bit more about what happens after I click “submit” and my thoughts are whisked away through cyberspace, only to appear in my paperbox a few days later.
“I read one of your columns taped to the inside of the bathroom in the teacher’s bathroom stall,” someone recently said to me. (I was honored that I was worthy of such an important place of escape.)
“I saw one of them posted on the wall in my office,” another person said.
“My mother clips them now and then and sends your column to her friends.” (At this I nearly blushed.)
But I know for sure that not everyone clips and cherishes my simple reflections as in those stories, so I wonder about where else my face has ended up over the years.
I know I’ve seen my newspaper columns in the classrooms of my children, protecting table surfaces from glue, markers, paint, and glitter. And once, while at an outdoor conference in Columbus, I was asked to start a campfire and was given a paper to get things going. It happened to be one that included my commentary. And while I refused to set my own face on fire that day, I’m positive there are plenty of papers that end up in embers meant for gathering and warming and marshmallows.
It is my hope that after my thoughts are read, something useful happens, even if it is art or fire. I hope that my photo lines a border for a new wall of paint, or gets wrapped around a special present placed in a box and shipped to a friend in another town. And I hope that a Girl Scout takes a stack of newspaper that I’m in and covers it in plastic to make a sit-upon. And I hope, I really hope, that my printed face and words are used to cushion Christmas ornaments as they are taken off the tree and packed into a box to keep precious things safely guarded until the next season. Hey, I’ll even accept the fact that birdcages and litter boxes have been their final resting place.
No matter the fate, there’s just something special about these “old-fashioned” newspapers and what they have to offer. Use my face to wash your windows, weed control your garden and even absorb the moisture in your stinky boots.
I’m just happy I was there to help.
Originally written 8.7.16