I’d like to introduce you to the Flat Mark twins.
But first, a little history.
Flat Stanley is a character in a 1964 book written by Jeff Brown and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer. In the book, Stanley Lambchop and his brother Arthur are given a bulletin board where they can tack up pictures and notes. In the middle of the night the bulletin board falls off the wall and flattens Stanley.
Stanley soon discovers that his new state is kind of cool: he can slip under locked doors and he can even be mailed around the world in an envelope. He goes on lots of adventures.
In 1994, Dale Hubert started the Flat Stanley Project in Ontario. He thought kids could cut out paper drawings of themselves and mail them to people around the world (https://www.flatstanley.com/about?subpage=project). The phenomenon caught on.
I first met Stanley when he came to visit my Sparks unit in Cumberland, BC, in the early 2000s; one of the girls was hosting a Stanley and brought him to share, and to have her photo taken with him and our unit. I was intrigued and wrote an article about it.
I didn’t see “Stanley” again until three years ago, when Sandi Zeutenhorst Schmidt, a teacher at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in Wenatchee, Wash., posted a request on Facebook asking people to host “Flats” from her students.
Sandi and I go way back; we met each other as teenagers at an international Girl Guide/ Girl Scout event. We have stayed in touch in various ways through the years, including Facebook.
I said sure, I would host a “Flat”. Soon after that, Flat Sydnie arrived in Port Alberni, B.C. Canada. She had pink and purple hair, and we had some grand adventures. I took some photos, threw together a scrapbook and mailed it off. I also wrote a column about Flat Sydnie. (http://www.albernivalleynews.com/opinion/121745659.html)
I was fortunate that Flat Sydnie’s mom allowed Sandi to send me a photo of “Real” Sydnie, and I still keep it tacked up to my bulletin board at work.
Last month, Sandi contacted me again: Sydnie’s brother Mark was doing the Flat Stanley project with her and would I be interested in hosting another “Flat”?
Of COURSE! I told her. I waited excitedly for the mail.
And I waited…
And I waited…
And waited…..and waited…..
Flat Mark was lost in the mail! Having his own grand adventure, I thought, a little disappointed that he didn’t take me along.
I contacted Sandi and asked her to have Real Mark draw another Flat Mark, and this time scan it so I could print it out.
Finally, on April 11, 2014, Flat Mark arrived. Let the adventures begin!
The next day, Flat Mark and I went to the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce and took a photo with the carved bear out front of the building.
As I was taking this photo, a woman came out of the building and said, “Oh, I see you have Flat Stanley!”
I explained to her that this was in fact Flat Mark and that he was visiting from Wenatchee, Wash. The woman stopped, smiled, and said “We’re from Edmonds, Wash.!” She and her family were visiting Port Alberni.
We went to Cathedral Grove, on our way to Courtenay, where I had to attend an event for a freelance project I was working on. Cathedral Grove, or MacMillan Provincial Park (it’s formal name) features one of the largest stands of giant Douglas Fir trees on Vancouver Island, in a park that has been around since the 1920s. Some of the trees are 800 years old! One tree is nine metres in circumference—I wonder how many students it would take holding hands to reach around that big tree.
On our way to Courtenay, we detoured to Fanny Bay, where I used to live, and saw the sea lions. It was the end of the herring season and the sea lions were gathered on a float near the government dock at Fanny Bay.
On April 14, Flat Mark met Susie’s Girl Guides and went on a field trip to the Alberni Valley Rescue Hall, where he met Jane, one of the search and rescue volunteers who look for people who are lost.
April 16 was a VERY special day. When Susie came home from work, there was a large manila envelope in her mailbox.
The original Flat Mark had arrived! And by the looks of the envelope, he had been to Calgary, Alberta, before he was rerouted to a mail depot in Vancouver, B.C. and then on to Port Alberni.
You know what that meant? Flat Mark was really twins! I had two Flat Marks to entertain.
On April 18, I had to go back to Courtenay to take some photos, so the Flat Mark Twins came along.
On April 26, the Flat Mark Twins went on a BC Ferries boat ride to Richmond, B.C., where Susie, her publisher and two reporters attended the B.C. and Yukon Community Newspapers Association awards gala. Susie won an award, a Silver Quill Award, for 25 years of work and service in community newspapers.
On May 2, we all attended the Regional Heritage Faire, which Susie helps judge every year. Flat Sydnie also attended this fair. The Flat Mark Twins met Rosemarie Buchanan, a school trustee with School District 70, and Sarah Bell, a student who won an award for her historical display on the TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics. Sarah’s grandfather helped build the cyclotron, and that was the focus of her history project.
By this time, the Flat Mark Twins were supposed to be heading home to Wenatchee and back to their owner. But they were having too much fun and refused to get back into the envelope just yet.
So they came to Guide camp with Susie, toured the Courtenay Museum, were snatched from the jaws of a dinosaur!
Now, the Flat Mark Twins are on a cross-Canada adventure with Susie. We left Vancouver International Airport (call sign YVR) on May 24, and arrived in Moncton, New Brunswick very late that night. We are visiting Susie’s sister and her family in Amherst, Nova Scotia, right over the border from New Brunswick.
What’s next for Susie and the Flat Mark Twins? More of Amherst, Nova Soctia, Fredericton, New Brunswick then off to Ottawa, Canada’s national capital, where we plan to visit the Parliament Buildings—Canada’s version of the White House.
You are the BEST! This is going to be such a special journal for the real Mark to treasure forever. Thank-you for participating in our project.