Tag: ink

Flashback Friday: Letters From Grandpa

This story was originally posted on September 28, 2017. I had a few pen pals when I was younger. I loved to get mail from friends from far away. I learned a lot about different places and different people. I still feel like getting a letter in the mail is a little bit magical.

Ethan watched his mom go through the mail and sort it into piles. “Did I get anything?” he asked.

“Not today,” she said.

Ethan frowned. “I never get any letters.”

Mom tossed all the junk mail into the recycling bin.   “You have to send letters to get letters,” she said.

“But who would I write to?”

Mom smiled. “How about Grandpa?”

And so, Ethan wrote a letter to Grandpa.

Dear Grandpa,

On the way home from school today, I saw a squirrel.   Did you walk to school when you were my age? Did you have recess? I like to play four square. My favorite lunch is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.   Write back please.

Love, Ethan

A week later, Mom handed Ethan a letter. “It looks like Grandpa wrote back,” she said.   Ethan ripped open the envelope and unfolded the letter.

Dear Ethan,

 I rode an elephant to school. We had to stick to the shadows so that the dinosaurs didn’t see us and try to eat us. We couldn’t play four square because of all of the lava on the playground. If we tossed the ball wrong, it melted and caught on fire at the same time.

So, mostly we just used big rocks to crack open small rocks to see what was inside. Generally, what’s inside of rocks is more rock. But sometimes there are jellybeans. You have to be pretty lucky to find jellybeans.

I liked to bring a lunch pail full of frog eye salad to eat at lunch time. There was a kid at my school from the fancy part of town.   He had a trained penguin bring him shaved ice for lunch on a silver tray. I always thought that would be a pretty lousy lunch. I imagine he was rather jealous of my salad.

What have you been learning this year in school?
Love, Grandpa

Ethan read the letter out loud to his mom. She laughed out loud. “Ethan, you know that people weren’t around the same time as dinosaurs, right? And I’m sure your grandpa didn’t ride an elephant to school or see any penguins there.”

“What about the frog eyes?” Ethan asked.

“That’s a type of pasta,” Mom said.

“Oh,” Ethan said. “I think I’ll go write Grandpa back now.”

Dear Grandpa,

Thanks for writing back. Mom said that your stories mostly weren’t true. They were funny though. In school we learn reading and math and science and geography and things like that.   What did you learn in school?   What did you do for fun? Did you have homework? I do sometimes. But Mom lets me play video games when I get my homework done. Write back soon.

Love, Ethan

A week later, Ethan got another letter.

Dear Ethan,

Maybe I dreamed the elephant. And the dinosaurs. I’m not sure. I’m pretty sure there was lava though. In school we learned the three Rs: resting, remembering, and wrestling. Or something like that.

Homework took a long time to do. We had to dive into the ocean and wrestle giant squids in order to get ink for our pens. We had to pound reeds into paper to write on. We didn’t have calculators, so we had to gather people together until we had enough fingers and toes to count on to finish our math problems.

Most of my friends used their extra time trying to take over the world.   I usually relaxed with my favorite book, an unabridged dictionary. It was an amazing book. There was something new on every page. I tried to take over the world once, just for fun, but that’s another story.

Do you like to read?

Love, Grandpa

Ethan read the letter to Mom. “Did Grandpa really wrestle squids and make his own paper?” Ethan asked.

“They had paper and ink at the store when he was younger,” Mom said.   “Grandpa really isn’t that old.”

“He’s really funny though,” Ethan said. “I’m going to go write him another letter. Then maybe I’ll read the dictionary.”

And Ethan wrote another letter, and then he discovered the dictionary was more interesting than he thought. And later his Grandpa wrote back, but that’s another story.

How I Keep a Comic Diary

Last year, through a link on Arie Van De Graaff’s web page, I found Brittany Olsen’s Comic Diaries
page. I was delighted. I had just bought a brush pen and wanted more practice with it. I decided to draw a journal entry once a week in addition to my more traditional daily journaling.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. With the new pen, it was hard not to draw thick, heavy lines. It didn’t look much like a comic, either. I ended up with big, blocky pictures accompanied by words that looked like they were in bold-face type. It was discouraging.

My very first attempt at a comic diary

And then one day, I suddenly received an answer to my problem. In my mind, I saw templates that I could put on the page to make blocks for my comics. They would be the size of the sketchbook pages, while the overall size of the inside comic would remain the same, despite the number or size of boxes.

I realized that I could use the brush pen to trace the boxes and get practice, while using a smaller pen for the words and drawings so that I created a better comic. It all seemed so simple. I wasn’t sure why I hadn’t thought of it before. Inspiration is like that.

I went home and dug through the recycling for the family size Lucky Charms boxes. They’d been on sale, and I’d bought several. There was just enough cardboard to make a good variety of stencils. Any other arrangement of boxes I can adapt from the existing stencils.

I use these stencils to draw the borders on my comic diaries. What a huge difference!

After a few hours of measuring, marking, and careful cutting, I had my stencils. I drew a comic diary entry using my stencils and new ideas, and I was thrilled with the results. It looked a hundred times better. It’s what I’ve done ever since.

My comic diary celebration of two years posting my stories, art and cartoons. Here was my post that day: https://summerbirdstories.com/happy-second-anniversary/

Occasionally, I accidentally skip a page. When that happens, I just add a family recipe on the blank page, comic diary style.

Seriously, try this recipe! We stole it from someone else on the internet (hence the name of the recipe)

Sometimes the weeks are extra full, and it’s hard to not cram everything that happened into the page. I think the best entries are when I share how I’m thinking or feeling, or when I celebrate one big event.

Life is full of highs and lows. Keeping a diary helps capture the emotion and the feelings in life.

I have been keeping a regular journal since high school. I have boxes and boxes of them. I can’t imagine wanting to reread them at all. I know writing in them helps me sort through events and how I feel, but I think they’re probably pretty boring.

My comic diary is interesting. It is more compact time-wise, and less text-dense. When people flip through it, it seems like they start reading without intending to, stopping themselves several pages in and apologizing. I don’t really mind, though. I hope that someday my children will find it equally interesting. It may be a good way to pass down family history. That way, they won’t have to read through boxes of journals to find out what I was thinking or feeling.

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