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Santa Maria Sun / Humor

The following article was posted on September 4th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 26 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 26

No such thing as scrap

Voila! It's a thingamajig!

BY SHELLY CONE


Tape, cardboard, string, and duct tape. These items are like contraband in my house. It’s not uncommon for a package to arrive in the mail for someone in my household and when they go to retrieve it from the kitchen table its packaging is missing 2-1/2 sides. At Christmastime adhesive tape for wrapping presents is even more well-hidden than the gifts themselves.

My house is made up of creatives and the engineering-minded. The combination means there are lot of “projects” of various sorts lying around in various stages of completion. Some things are fixes—like tape on the back of the remote, which was broken because someone couldn’t stop fiddling with the battery compartment. Some are just creative, like the duct tape shoes and hat my son made. Some are curious inventions that my kindergartener is proud of. But always they are harmless—even though others might not think so.

On our way home from a vacation in Florida we stayed in the airport hotel. We had with us three weeks’ worth of colorful shells I had planned to make into necklaces after learning how at a bead store. So they wouldn’t break, we added sand to the three containers of shells. Then my husband duct taped (because for reasons I can’t remember we had duct tape with us on our vacation) the packages so the sand wouldn’t fall out. Minutes before leaving the hotel we figured the airline wouldn’t let us carry on these suspicious-looking sand containers wrapped in duct tape.

We decided to leave them in the hotel. Then imagining housekeeping finding—and freaking out—over these packages in our room, at the last minute we ran back to our room, feverishly unwrapping and dumping sand and shells everywhere lest we miss our plane.

Adults should have the common sense not to alarm people with creative projects, but how do you make a child realize that-—without snuffing out the creativity that is starting to burn?

When one of my sons was going through a ninja warrior-superhero phase he would fashion ninja stars out of intricately folded pieces of paper and deftly fling them at trees in a warning to any bad guys who may be watching our family. He also created a wrist cuff that, with a Spiderman-style flick of the wrist, would shoot out a paper-made projectile.

Obviously this was not well accepted by other authority figures. Understandably so. We cautioned him not to bring his “inventions,” as he called them, to school to show his friends, but proud of them as he was they still managed to find their way to class a time or two. Calls from teachers weren’t always understanding.

I get it that schools have to adhere to strict standards, but with all the heightened alert there is little regard for creativity. Some of that imaginative spirit is my fault, I guess. In my day I ran around with a rope, swinging it as my Lasso of Truth. I wore wrist cuffs to deflect any bullets aimed at me, like my hero Wonder Woman. Childhood is so fragile and innocent that it can also be confusing and confidence crushing. I was taller than average, with long, curly dark hair, so comparing myself to the Amazon princess superhero made me feel better about myself and actually for years after maybe a little too confident.

But I wonder how confident I would’ve been had my rope and cuffs been labeled weapons of domestic terrorism.

For a science project, one of my sons found a way to shoot a water bottle several feet in the air using a few supplies we had on hand, a piece of pvc pipe, a plastic water bottle, some duct tape, a water hose, and a bike pump. He took it to school and his teacher loved it so much so that she called us the next day and asked if we could bring it to school so she could give a demonstration to another class.

As we arrived on campus carrying these items, I instantly remembered the Florida trip and how easily things can be misconstrued. We were carrying a pvc pipe, bike pump, and duct tape-wrapped water bottle; we should probably check in at the office. Sometimes even that doesn’t alleviate fears.

“That looks like an RPG device,” the principal said as we explained that we were delivering the science project.

We laughed nervously, not knowing if he was serious.

“Well, it’s just a bottle rocket for a science project,” I said.

“Well, it looks like an RPG to me. At my last school I’d have you arrested,” he said.

Now we were worried. Maybe he just had a dry sense of humor.

“Well, the teacher requested it today so if you have any fears with us bringing this to campus maybe you should discuss it with her,” I said.

“Well, at my last school I’d have you and the teacher arrested,” he said as my husband and I turned and walked out the door.

Arrest us if you will over a science project, that place is where engineering meets creativity. That crossroads is exactly the place our family lives, and threatening those traits is something I consider domestic terrorism. I understand the extra security measures schools and other public organizations have put in place because of whackos who can’t deal with society or their inner demons, but for the most part children are born pure of heart, their intentions are good. Society teaches them otherwise.

These days I check out every piece of origami my son creates to make sure it can’t be construed as a weapon should he take it to school. One day we were walking through the supermarket and my son began collecting those twist ties for bags, and by the time we were at the register he had fashioned them into a model of a Star Wars X-Wing fighter. I thought it was awesome but told him not to take it to school lest it be considered an object of violence.

Hopefully, my boys will retain their creative-yet-analytical thinking skills and they will continue to see their talent, even if no one but our household does right now.

I felt positive about it as I opened my order of new sandals that had arrived and awaited my son Chase to ask me for the box. Instead, he asked for the plastic “foot” that held the sandal in shape.

“You want the foot instead of the box?” I asked.

“Don’t judge me,” he said with a smile.

 

Shelly Cone still thinks a Lasso of Truth could come in handy now and again.