Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Art of Craft

Today, I will discuss how I fail at one of the critical aspects of Professional Mothering: the Making of Crafts. There are whole magazines dedicated to every sort of project that a parent (read: Mother) and child can do, sitting around the kitchen table as a pot of homemade soup bubbles on the exquisitely restored stove. There is no holiday so obscure that a photogenic craft can’t be found somewhere to commemorate it. For now, let’s ignore the obvious questions such as where in the hell do you put the Arbor Day tree made out of old neckties, paper clips and a wrapping paper roll where it isn’t knocking over the Earth Day four-foot-high collage of renewable energy sources or the Columbus Day giant faux ravioli made out of a pillow and red poster paint? Let us go to the larger problem.

I cannot make anything attractive that involves glue.

This problem goes back to elementary school. I remember, with terrible clarity, sitting in class staring at a Valentine that I created for my parents. It didn’t resemble the traditional winning confection of lace and love that children make so much as a 3-D model of the actual heart of an elderly person, complete with clogged arteries and tissue necrosis. This was just one in a decade-long parade of artwork best described as “unsettling”. It bothers me to think about how many trees lost their lives just so that I could create something that would lead teachers to say things like “well, Rome wasn’t built in a day”, while patting me sympathetically on the shoulder. If there was Remedial Crafts, I would have been in there, stringing macaroni necklaces well into high school.

Flash forward a couple of decades. Daughter recently took a class on California’s natural history at the local museum. Since the children were between three and four years old, this was mainly an excuse for the parents to get out of the house and for the children to eat Pepperidge Farms goldfish crackers in an educational environment. But the (clearly childless) person who devised the class decided that it would be nice to have the children make Conestoga wagons out of shoe boxes, construction paper, pipe cleaners...and glue.

The children did exactly what was expected of them. That is, they wandered off to eat crackers and try to remove each others’ eyes with pipe cleaners. The mothers were left to create whatever tangible keepsakes might justify the money we'd shelled-out for the class. If I had been handed a person suffering from a major gunshot wound and told to stitch them up, I could not have been any more anxious, ill-equipped and under-qualified for the task at hand. But I tried.

I cut, I glued. I attached tiny wheels made out of toilet paper rolls. And, in total candor, it did resemble one of the covered wagons our pioneer forefathers used to travel across our great land. Unfortunately, it resembled the wagon after an especially bad migration, where the native people threw boulders at it, shot it with flaming arrows and then stomped on what was left. If you looked at my wagon you would have sworn you could hear tiny pioneers sobbing.

I carefully shifted the remains into a paper bag and bore them home furtively. Later, Consort found the Bag of Shame, and asked Daughter about the class. She said brightly “That’s mine!” For a person under the age of five, it was some fine work. This was one of those times when her three-year-old impulse to claim everything as hers worked in my favor.

I didn’t correct her.


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