Georgia

On my ride into work today, a Georgia license plate caught my eye and brought me back to fifth grade. I was in Mr. Melvin’s class. He was a tall and gentle man, who took his time writing on the chalkboard, his back to the class. That’s when most of the boys in the class went crazy hurling spitballs, perfectly timed to halt when Mr. Melvin turned back to face the class. We sat, desks in rows, mine was towards the back of the class, near the windows.

We did many big projects that year. I remember dressing as Clara Barton and giving a speech in front of the class. At one point, we were all assigned a state and a lengthy list of information we had to find to include in a report. My state was Georgia.

Back in the 1990s, I think we had a computer lab that held Apple 2 Es. The screens glowed green, the type typewriter-ish, and we may have used them once or twice a year for typing. All of our research was done in the library, using the trusty set of Encyclopedia’s that always sat in perfect order upon a special shelf.

It was in the G encyclopedia that I learned of Georgia’s state capital, Atlanta, I drew a replica of the state bird, the brown thrasher, and meticulously copied the state flag. As I checked each item off of the project checklist, I marveled at the collection of pages I had created. Just one item left of the list, Georgia’s license plate. I had not seen that in any of my research.

I searched the school library for any other books on Georgia that might hold the information I needed. When those resources were exhausted and panic was setting in, I took my research to the public library. I remember seeking assistance from the librarian in the children’s department, but again, my efforts were fruitless.

By now, I had asked everyone I knew and no one had a clue what the Georgia license plate looked like. I was beginning to lose hope and even worse, feared failing or perhaps just disappointing my teacher. What else could I do?

Then, one random afternoon, my dad came home from work, excited because he had seen a Georgia plate on the highway. Of course, he did not have a cell phone to snap a quick picture, but he described a peach, rising like the sun against a white background. That is the image I recreated with my prized color pencils, arranged neatly in rainbow order.

Seeing that Georgia plate today made me think about how instantaneous our lives are now. Today, if my kids were assigned a state project, they’d have all of the information they needed within minutes, all from the luxury of their choice of electronic devices. While, there are many ways that technology has made life easier, I don’t think I would trade in my days of encyclopedias and wonder.

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10 thoughts on “Georgia

  1. Ah yes….the days of the World Book Encyclopedia. I can hear my dad now, as we sat around the dining room table at night asking questions and wondering about this and that. “Well….go look it up!” I’m sure we sighed and complained. “Can’t you just tell us the answer?” But now we see it as quaint and really quite valuable. Thanks for bringing back the memories.

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  2. The excitement and wonder of the old days AND learning to deal with the panic of never knowing! What I love the most is that it took a conversation and description for you imagine that Georgia license plate – what gift of a memory that came to you today and reminder to us all that we must keep the wonder alive amidst all the tech! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. So true! Think about all you learned in terms of processing, communication, perseverance, and synthesis but having to use all those resources. Technology is a mixed blessing for sure! I love how your dad was thinking of you as he drove home from work – small, but important detail in your slice.

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  4. I loved how step by step you shared your project tasks with vivid details. Favorite detail – arranged neatly in rainbow order. (I used to arrange my colored pencils the same way!) Your ending still has me thinking. I wonder if kids today don’t experience the struggle as much? Just a though after reading your moment. Thanks for sharing this story.

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  5. Right?!?!? It’s such the Information Age, but not the Thinking or Reflection Age. There’s something so much more creative about trying to draw what someone describes instead of copying a picture. Just that detail and different task has me thinking!

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  6. You had to use all your skills and resources to learn. I remember researching Rhode Island which seemed so foreign at the time in the Midwest. Building a Wampanoag lean to with him. Then driving our younger son to Michigan to explore when it was his turn. Such a different time.

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  7. I love the idea of you drawing the license plate from a description. There are so many steps in there that simply couldn’t exist in today’s world. It feels like a scene from a novel, really. I think I’ll tell my boys about this in the morning & see what they think of your experience. Bet they’ll be shocked.

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