Saturday, July 4, 2009

Her front, her back, her insides transmit hope

"La esperanza muere ultima – hope never dies." – Studs Terkel

The smooth texture of the paper between my fingers, the nurturing aroma of newsprint, the blessed assurance of holding the paper in my hands has a calming effect on news junkies like me.

It was no different with the New York Times, which inaugurated my Sundays as a kid growing up in New York State. A tradition that predated me, stopping at the local newsstand after church was a religious ritual as natural as crossing my head, my chest and my shoulders with holy water when entering sacred places.

Then and now, the Sunday Times is a newspaper as thick as a novel and as wide as a seat cushion. Lugging it home took some doing.

Even though my parents were not self-described news junkies, they were more than casual readers. And when sharing the Sunday paper, I had to wait in line.

With subdued excitement, I hung out in the background of their mysteriously silent weekend interactions, while Mom carefully unfolded Section 1A and Dad pulled out the Sports and Business sections.

After they quietly settled into their places at the kitchen table, each gripping a coffee cup in one hand and the paper in the other, I carefully flipped through the bundle of newsprint and pulled out the Fashion, Arts and Classified sections.

Finding a place to sprawl on the living room floor in our spacious two-story century-old home, I spread the paper out before me and escaped to New York City.

Using the Times as a compass for my dreams, I virtually traveled down Broadway, up 72nd Street, across Time Square, through Central Park and over the Hudson to Long Island.

Ironically, when I lived in New York State from ages 9 to 19, I never did go to the Big Apple. It wasn’t until 1978, three years after I moved to South Dakota, that I traveled to the City on a business trip.

Therefore, the Times expanded my world to a larger world, a place that I could only imagine through dozens upon dozens of articles, photographs and artists’ renderings of glamorous people, famous places and important things.

For me, the Sunday Times was a map that simultaneously summoned and guided me. I camped in it and charted distances between where I was in the world and where the world was in me.

It was my classroom where editors, reporters and columnists were my teachers from whom I learned much.

On many characteristically dreary Sunday afternoons in Southwestern New York State, where annually there are more cloudy days than sunny ones, I slowly, methodically thumbed my way over the smooth and rough terrains of those back sections and was enlightened.

The presence of the newspaper in our home – her front, her back, her insides – transmitted the power of information and, therefore, hope.

With newspaper closings, some as old as 150 years, I shutter at the thought of them going away all together.

2009 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took three first-place awards. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at and find her on FaceBook.

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