There’s a law that every school child must create a diorama at some point. It’s as necessary a rite of passage as the volcano belching baking soda and vinegar lava. Somehow I never did either of those. I spent a lot of time diagramming sentences instead. You see where that got me.
DramaQueen’s language arts teacher likes creative book reports. Last year we had to create a cereal box with a prize inside, a diorama and a puppet show. We will no doubt have the same lineup again this year. I say “we” because we all know that these sorts of projects are never lone ventures. In fact, the end result can tell you a lot about the child’s mother.
For example, DramaQueen has a friend whose mother is an artist. ArtistChild’s puppet theater actually looked like a puppet theater, with real fabric curtains. ArtistChild is also busy converting her old dollhouse into a fairy dwelling, complete with moss on the roof and little ladders made from twigs, in case the fairies need to climb instead of fly. I didn’t look, but I suspect there may be a tea set made from acorns. I’m not sure which would surprise me more, the second coming of Christ or DramaQueen creating a fairy cottage.
You see, DramaQueen is a lot like me in some ways. I am not a crafty or artistic person. The scrapbooking section of Michaels awakens in me feelings of insecurity and despair. When I was a child a scrapbook was a hodgepodge of stuff you liked stuck on with Elmer’s, in a ratty book with non-archival Manila paper. Now you can select hundreds of types of paper, ribbons, notions, decorative hole punches, stickers, and special pens. You can buy something called a Cricut that costs several hundred dollars just so you can, well, do something fancy that I don’t understand. It’s all acid free and archival quality, so after the nuclear fallout, the visiting aliens will find a thriving colony of cockroaches scuttling over a fine collection of scrapbooks.
So I feel a certain amount of dread when one of these projects looms on the horizon. This most recent one was for the book Things Unseen. DramaQueen decided to do a bathroom scene, when the protagonist first discovers he’s invisible.
Did you get that? – Invisible. Hold that thought.
In the good old days, you made stuff for a diorama. My first stop was the Internet, to see how one might go about making a set of bathroom furnishings. I discovered one site where a person (I assume a person, but I wouldn’t be surprised by an alien) had constructed a toilet from an empty soap box, the neck of a drinkable yoghurt bottle, and some doodad they found at Lowe’s. I was immediately struck by three things: (1) we don’t use bar soap; (2) we don’t drink yoghurt; (3) that person made a special trip to Lowe’s to look for just the right doodad to make a toilet lid.
Riiiiiiight, I thought, and off we went to Toys R Us to price toy bathrooms. Thirteen dollars saved my sanity, and Firecracker will inherit the bathroom so that her stuffed monkey can use the facilities.
Some might think that’s cheating. Well, bite me. We were going to need all our latent creative skill to build an invisible person.
Just so we didn’t completely neglect the handmade touch, I printed out dollhouse wall paper and tiles. God, I love the Internet. Wait, I suppose that’s not really very hand-made, either. Bite me. Oh, I said that already.
Inspiration hit me when we took the bathroom furniture out of the box, the box with the clear plastic viewing window. Ha – take that crafty people! We traced a vaguely boyish shape onto the plastic and – voila – we had an invisible boy. By “we” I mean “me”; DramaQueen was busy writing a summary, a character study and a book review – you know, the part of the project that actually demonstrates your knowledge and understanding of the book.
As I said, these projects tell you a lot about the student’s mom. I’m lazy. I believe saving time and frustration is money well-spent. I think shortcuts are essential for focusing on the central issue, and the central issue here is learning about a book and not how to papier mache a toilet. Finally, at some point I usually luck into a creative solution to a problem. Someone else’s problem, that is.
This morning DramaQueen carefully packed up her diorama and took it to school. I hope we get an “A.”