Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Plantation Model I Built -- kind of.

My brother recently posted pictures of his daughter's science project. It is a model of our solar system that he and his daughter built, well, together. It reminded me of the school project I was assigned many years ago -- and built -- with my mother's help.

My mother had an artistic temperament, and artistic ability. Her handwriting was something out of the Official Guide to Perfect Handwriting. I remember mom-addressed Christmas cards with each name and address perfectly written. In green ink, from an old dip-and-write fountain pen, no less.

But I had never seen the real artistic skill in action until my fifth grade history teacher assigned each student the task of building a model southern plantation. I was prepared, as any kid would be, to glue a couple of pillar-type sticks to the front of an old show box, paint it white, and call it a day. Mom would have none of it.

First, a sturdy board foundation was pulled out of a crawl space, then some white paint. The foundation was painted, and a shoe box was turned upside down and wrapped in stiff white paper with a smaller box glued on top. Holes were cut out for windows and doors. Walkways were painted on the board and greenery glued down. On and on it went until the final touch of any respectable southern plantation: the pillars were installed, which were made from unused wallpaper turned inside out, dampened and rolled tight, like pillars. They were perfect.

I remember bringing my uber-plantation into school with some pride but also a little embarrassment, thinking that others would know that I had a lot of help. But my most vivid memory was thinking to myself -- how could my mother create something like this out of household leftovers and enjoy herself doing it?

When I look at the picture of my brother in front of his daughter's solar system, I know.


Victor said...

I enjoyed the story! Sometimes I forget where it comes from. The first project I did for Dominic was a paper mache' project that the teachers knew would be made by the parents of the 3rd grade class.
Dominic(me) had to make an Ocelot and it looked so good I thought it moved and jumped in the way of the children and told it to step back. I joked about it to Dominic like I did with Alanna just recently. Anyway I'm thinking that this Ocelot is how they say "All that", but when I got to the room it was like the Smithsonian. They had another catagory, which were hand made stuffed animals that would sell for at least 80.00 and up. I'm thinking........."What did that kid do to participate?". I'm picturing the mom yelling at the kids to be quiete so she can finish her project.

Lynn said...

I made the kids do their own science projects, from start to finish. I *did* transport the completed projects to school, if necessary. [I am so not into competitive parenting.]

Great science project, Brother-of-Francis. Giving you a sitting ovation for having accomplished it *together*.

Great story, Francis.

Anonymous said...

Sister of Fran said:
I so wish I inherited the artistic genes from mom. I must have gotten dad's genes when it comes to that kind of stuff. I never got into the school projects.

I love the story and pics and am going to print and share with dad.

Victor said...

(This is Beth). Thanks for the story Fran. We really need to get Victor his own paint set! We were talking about it and agreed that most adults don't express themselves that way (painting, "building stuff") unless they happen to be particularly good at it. So "helping" a kid with a project lets you get into the fun stuff without the pressure of feeling like it has to be a work of art.

Francis Shivone said...

All: thanks for the comments.
Victor definitely has mom's creative gene. I always liked the planning part of projects but never could pull off the creative stuff. And Beth, I agree, it's like laying around on Saturday morning watching cartoons -- it's hard to do without kids.