A Vacation with Stanley

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite books was Flat Stanley, written in 1964 by Jeff Brown. Oh, who am I kidding?  It’s still one of my favorite books.  But it was just a few days ago that I found out what year the book was written, when I unwittingly insulted my mother’s age by saying, “I knew that was an old story, but I didn’t realize it was that old!”  Oops- not a good way to win your mother’s affection the day before Mother’s Day.

Anyway, several weeks ago, my sister called me one evening asking me for my new home address, and wanting to know if I would be interested in helping her with a Flat Stanley project she’s working on for school.  Her class had read the book, and each student was coloring and mailing out a Flat Stanley of their own to send on “vacation” with a friend or family member who lives outside of our hometown.  For several reasons (beginning with the fact that I just cannot ever bring myself to tell my sister “no,” and ending with the fact that I’m as excited about the project as she is- since I’m just a little kid in a big body) I told her to send him our way.

Stanley arrived at our house in the middle of a late-April snowstorm.  Upon his arrival, we sent my sister an email to let her know he was here safely, if not a little chilly:

Dear [Peanut],

     I arrived [here] yesterday, and you will not believe what I saw the moment I came out of the envelope.  There is snow here.  Snow!  It’s April!  And I have only my pants and shirt to keep warm.  I didn’t think I would need to ask you to pack me a winter coat!  However, since I came inside I’ve been warm enough.  
     We haven’t done any sightseeing yet.  I think someone said “Quaker Steak and Lube” last night, but maybe I was hearing things.  I hope we wait until it gets warmer outside before we do that.  I will write again and let you know what I’ve seen.  I like it here so far though.
See you in a few weeks!  

Once the weather improved, we took Stanley out to do some sightseeing.  The first place we took him was to visit a local lighthouse, build in 1857:
The following week was Cinco de Mayo.  Peanut had called to tell me about the celebration they were organizing in school, with Mexican-style foods and educational activities.  We were inspired (and plus, who can resist Mexican food?  Nobody in this house, for sure!) and so we prepared a Cinco de Mayo feast of chicken fajitas on homemade flour tortillas topped with salsa, cheese, and sour cream.  My one omission was my greatest Latin-food weakness: guacamole.  I kept forgetting to pick up avocados when I was at the store, so sadly, we ate our fajitas without it.
The next part of Stanley’s tour occurred when he accompanied us on a trip to Pittsburgh to watch Ryan’s dad and brother run the Pittsburgh half-marathon: 13.1 miles around the city.  We waited near the finish line to cheer them on, with Stanley in tow:
We finished Stanley’s trip with a trip downtown to some more landmarks.  The first was the 187-foot tower (base to top observation deck) that provides some of the best views of the city:
The gentleman who took our tickets at the Bicentennial Tower has seen many, many Flat Stanley’s, and advised us to hold on to him tightly, as he’s also seen many blow away into the water of the bay below.  He knew the Stanley story, and advised us on other places we could go sightseeing.  Just before we got on the elevator to go back to the parking lot to continue our tour, the gentleman said, “here, give Stanley to me and take my picture with him!”
Our final stop was at the Flagship Niagara, a ship that has been restored from the War of 1812 that docks in our bay during the warm months:
And as for our visit to Quaker Steak and Lube…we never made it there.  It just didn’t seem fair to Peanut, since that’s one of her favorite places to eat when she’s here visiting.  I guess we’ll wait to eat there until we can take her with us.  I don’t think Stanley will mind missing it that much, do you?

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