Nana Janet was in day four of dealing with the plain, ordinary common cold that’s been running rampant through the ‘hood; I was feeling miserable from that respiratory ailment where at first you feel so rotten that think you might die and then, a couple of days later, when its moved from head to chest and even your eyelashes hurt, you’re afraid you’re NOT going to die? The absolutely, positively, very last thing I wanted to do was spend the afternoon with a bunch of neighborhood kids.
“Oh, please, powers that be, please let all the little children call out. The big-uns, too!” I silently begged between sneezes and wheezes. “Word of honor, I vow to perform the duties of the Kidz Krafts Klub all by myself; I won’t even cough in the face of anyone who comes a’callin’….maybe even put a big QUARANTINE sign on the door…please let me have a ‘sickly Saturday’ just this once.”
Somewhat to my dismay, the Saturday gathering of the Kids Krafts Klub was called to order *sigh* with a mere nine young and three adult members in attendance; everyone else phoned or emailed in sick. Pinkie-swearing that the few runny noses were mere remnants of the same cold I had, some of the children were antsy from having been housebound for several days; others felt just fine, fully recovered from their own bouts with the bug. All were anxious to have a little fun. But what could we do to make everybody happy?
Since some fresh air was called for, we decided to haul our basket of assorted craft supplies outside and scour the yard for some nature-provided materials to turn into treasures. Almost all the trees were bare, their leaves ankle-deep across the entire lawn. Aha! That gave the most energetic kids the ideal opportunity to rake leaves into enormous piles into which they threw themselves repeatedly, gathering handfuls to shower upon each other in raucous play. Once the novelty wore off, they and the Klub dads cleared the entire area and loaded the leaves into our common compost bin, carefully stirring everything into the already decomposing vegetable peelings, eggshells, coffee grounds and other degradable ingredients all the neighbors contribute year-round. From the looks of the bin, we’re going to have a bumper crop of extremely rich mulch – and a very impressive worm colony – come next spring!
While cavorting through the dried foliage, the children found loads of huge pine cones, countless bird feathers, many in amazing shades of red, blue, black and yellow, as well as acorns aplenty. With those and a few other items we had squirreled away in the craft basket, we had everything needed to make some very unusual, impressionistic Thanksgiving decorations.
At this point I need to clarify something I stated in the introduction to Nana’s Neighborhood – the projects we make are not totally FREE. By necessity, I have spent a very modest sum on construction, blank newsprint and kraft paper, glue gun and sticks, clay, paint, brushes, crayons, pipe cleaners, assorted “google eyes” and scissors. The families of Klubsters and several local merchants also donate fabric, ribbon, lace, yarn, paper and clean plastic plates, cardboard, magazines, newspapers, glass jars and plenty of other items rather than throwing them away; I routinely send notes home with the kids letting the big-uns know what items we’re planning to recycle, asking that they save them for our projects.
The children who decided to forgo the strenuous activity sat on a quilt with me, sipping apple cider and gabbing away. I mostly sipped, sneezed, sniffled, half listening and contributing little more than an occasional nod or sympathetic “tsk tsk” and once again sought divine guidance in figuring out a project we could make and take REALLY, REALLY FAST! Happily, the answer was soon at hand.
Each Klubster was given a clear plastic newspaper bag. (We collect paper and plastic sacks of all shapes and sizes throughout the year; cut into strips and tied about rounded wire coat hangers, then decorated ad lib, newspaper bags make the most amazing wreaths. Today we reused them as..tah dah… bags.) Into each, we placed our favorite pine cones, along with an equal number of acorns and several feathers – at least five for each cone chosen. From the basket and into the bag went mini containers of craft glue, small scraps of red, brown and yellow felt and plenty of google eyes.
The Klubsters looked at the bags, then stared blankly at each others while I ran–okay, I was wearing sweats and house slippers, so more like dragged–myself into the house for the pumpkin bars I’d made and hurriedly divvied up into individual, foil-wrapped snacks. These then joined the miscellany in the children’s packages.
“What are we supposed to do with this stuff, Nana?” queried Donita, speaking for the group.
“Aren’t we very creative people?” I retorted. “Can’t we always figure out how to make something from what looks like nothing?”
“Yeah, I guess,” she replied, still a bit quizzical.
“A little imagination, please,” I suggested. “Doesn’t a pine cone kinda’ look like the body of a turkey? Maybe an acorn could be its head? And turkeys have big feathers on their tails, right? What if you even give it wings and a wattle; that’s the little beard turkeys have. Seems to me you could make a way cool holiday decoration all by yourself at home; why not invent a new Thanksgiving bird? Please share the snacks with your families and don’t forget to wash the foil so we can reuse or recycle it later. Now let’s pick up our trash, fold the blanket and everybody go home. I love you!”
Hallelujah…the plan worked with nary a complaint. The kids were content, my yard got raked for free, the compost bin is cooking right along and I spent the rest of the day swilling quarts of tea, juice and soup, gargling, dozing and just letting the creeping crud work its way out of my system.
And on Sunday morning, when I stepped out to collect the newspaper, there on the doorstep was one of the nicest gifts I’ve ever received – a tubby little three-eyed turkey sitting atop a shiny clean square of tin foil bearing a crayon printed note which read “Please feel better, Nana Janet. We love you!”