This is my 135th column. I aim for about 700 words in each column. That comes to about 95,000 words. I didn’t know I had that much to say.
The first column was at the urging of my colleagues in the newsroom. I had entertained them with stories of teaching school, and they thought these stories would be worth printing. I thought writing a column would be temporary. An editor who wrote a weekly column was leaving, and I assumed I would be taking his place until a new editor arrived. Instead, I became a staple, first on the editorial page and later in lifestyle.
I no longer work at The Covington News, but I still write the column. When I left, my husband urged me to quit writing; I think partly because he is always telling me not to write about him, and he saw my not writing as a way to make sure he was no longer in the paper. But the paper made me an offer to continue writing that I decided not to refuse.
I can tell you with certainty that this is my 135th column because a much younger friend urged, no insisted, that I put all my columns in a scrapbook. I am old enough to be her mother and then some. I tell you this because her idea of a scrapbook and my idea of a scrapbook are far apart.
I can remember cutting out pictures from magazines and pasting them in what we called scrapbooks to make new colorful scenes. Those books were, I think, made of cream -colored construction paper. If you don’t believe me, I have proof. When my husband and I moved into the house we now live in, I found an old scrapbook done, I would guess, by his aunt. I saved it.
My young friend meant SCRAPBOOK -- the modern phenomenon of using all kinds of colorful paper and clip art to record memories of family life.
She is a woman who can create a decorated Christmas tree out of not much and do it in 30 minutes. She wraps other people’s gifts for fun.
I didn’t think I could create a scrapbook that would meet her expectations. But the last time she visited she gave me a list of things to buy and told me how to accomplish my task.
My list included double sided tape, a 2-inch ring binder, plastic sleeves and white paper. I was to tape a column on either side of the white sheet and then insert the sheet in the sleeve.
I put it off for two weeks and then bit the bullet and bought the required stuff. How hard can this be, I thought. Well, it was hard and took me about 16 hours over the course of four days.
I had saved, I thought, all my columns. Most were raggedly and hurriedly cut out of the paper. I had kept them in a folder on my kitchen counter until my husband put a bag of grapefruit on top of them. One of the fruits spoiled, and so some of my columns have dark grapefruit splotches on them. Most did not have a date on them. I also have kept all the emails I have received from readers about my columns. Some were from former students, and some were from friends. Others were from strangers who had experienced the problems I have faced.
Others were just from admirers. In fact, I was in the grocery store about a month ago trying to decide whether to buy apples in a bag or separately. The 3-pound bag was so much and the apples were so much a pound. I was trying to multiply the price of apples a pound by three to see which I should purchase. Higher math for me.
A very nice woman approached me and asked, "Are you Paula Travis, or do you just look like Paula Travis?" My mind was busy multiplying and trying to carry numbers, and it took me a moment to answer. I told her I was Paula Travis, and she replied that she read my columns weekly and felt like she was meeting a star.
I guess organizing my columns in a scrapbook is worthwhile.
Paula Travis is a retired Newton County School System teacher. She can be reached at email@example.com.