Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Flannel Graph (Week 42 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

One symbol of Gen X's growing up years often gets forgotten...the flannel graph.  Kids who went to Sunday school/vacation Bible school in the 70s have memories of watching their teacher tell stories on one of these.  There would be a large upright board covered in flannel either in a solid color or with some sort of outdoor scene, and the characters, also made from flannel, could be placed on and moved around the board as the story is told.   My slightly-younger-than-me Gen X husband speaks English as a second language (but also proofreads my blog entries because he paid more attention in grammar class than I did), remembers learning from a flannel graph in a public school ESL class in the early 80s.

Flannel graphs were super popular during the time of Gen X's childhood.  These days, now that there are all kinds of digital ways of teaching or telling a story, you might only see one occasionally.  Hoping to pass on this important symbol to the younger generation, this week I made two flannel graphs -- one for my daughter and one for my Godson.

I love hearing stories.
I love telling stories.

Here is how a flannel graph works for the uninitiated...a story might go something like this:

The sun is high in the sky and a sailboat takes off across the water.  Some birds head from dry land to the water.

The story goes becomes a bit more cloudy, the sailboat heads further out into the water, the sun goes a little lower in the sky.  (Maybe some flannel figures of people would come walking out in the foreground and have a conversation here.)


Here the clouds have drifted away, the sun is setting, and the sailboat to make its way back to the shore.  The birds fly back to their nests as night comes. The story closes.

I remember going to a church pre-school where the teacher would tell flannel graph stories.  I immediately feel peaceful when I think of the way she would speak to us so gently and with so much kindness. The flannel pieces would attach to and come off the board so softly and easily as the story would go on.  I loved watching Jesus and the apostles walking around on the flannel Holy Land landscape.  It's nice when something simple can make you feel so content.  I so distinctly remember being in the sanctuary with other little Gen Xers as we sat on the wooden pews,  amazed at stories of miracles or captivated by the conversations of the people.  I always wanted to have the kind of voice that teacher did - a voice that tells stories in such a way that those who listen feel peaceful and loved.  Of all the voices we hear in our lives - those making demands, those criticizing us, those giving us unsolicited advice...I sometimes long to just sit, undistracted, in a sacred space and let someone tell me a story.

(c) 2012 photography and writing by Chloe Koffas - all rights reserved

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