Saturday, November 15, 2008

No Newspaper?!?

The general consensus in the business world is that paper newspapers are going the way of the dodo bird; that they no longer have a place in the modern world.

And I find that sad.

I don’t remember a time that there weren’t newspapers in my life, even before I could read. Mysteriously, each day, the newspaper would arrive at our house. The adults would all peruse the headlines then divvy up the sections - dad the sports, grandma the obits, mom the ladies section, the older kids the comics.

Then began the tsk-tsking over the day’s events – the local, the state, the national, and the world. Soon they would be exchanging bits and pieces of stories and then the sections would begin to rotate around, person-to-person, as each family member finished their first choice.

My father always got first crack at the crossword and soon we would look over the television offerings on channels 2 through 13 for that night. Monday through Saturday the kids could take out their crayons, using the daily comics as coloring books.

On Sunday, except for a quick glance at the headlines, the paper had to wait until after church. While my mother and grandmother finished fixing Sunday dinner, the paper kept us busy. After lunch my father would stretch out on the couch, begin reading the paper, and fall asleep with it resting on his chest.

Within a day-or-so of its arrival the paper would be cut apart: the Wednesday paper always had food coupons and good recipes, an idea from the sewing column would be set aside, an obituary or wedding or birth announcement would be tucked into the Bible, an article saved to mail out to a distant relative or a college student.

Sometimes there would be news so earthshaking – the starting and ending of wars, the deaths of presidents, local disasters - that whole newspapers would be put aside in a safe place for future generations to read and understand what had happened in the context of our daily lives.

And this wasn’t the end of the paper. It lined the bottom of the parakeet’s cage, insulated casseroles en route to church suppers, and protected the kitchen table from seasonal projects such as pumpkin carving, Easter egg dying, and fish-cleaning. Our dogs were paper-trained. Newspapers and cardboard boxes were the two things one saved when a move was in the offing.

We spread newspapers on the floor while we emptied the vacuum cleaner’s cloth bag and we crumpled a few in the fireplace under the wood to start the fire going. Ladies could copy or share patterns using newspapers and quilters sometimes used them for paper piecing.

Every gardener knew old newspapers could be used as mulch or as a tent over tender plants in case of frost. They could be used to clean windows.

Commuters use them as umbrellas during sudden rainstorms.

Now that I’m semi-retired I finally have time to peruse the paper from front-to-back over breakfast then start the crossword. This is the way that I pictured retirement and I don’t want to give it up.

Suddenly I want to go find my crayons, the big 64-color box.

"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." - Thomas Jefferson

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