Remember those paper boats that we made when we were young and dropped in a puddle of water or a lake or a pond. They were one of the few things if not the only things my hands could conjure up in no time.
Receiving this prompt on ALS brought back a lot of bitter-sweet memories of craft classes at school; the sweet bit were the paper boats I could spin at the drop of a hat and the bitter…was almost everything else. I hated craft!
Maybe I’d love it if my hands followed the instructions. They did. But it almost always ended in a fiasco. I dreaded craft classes. My dread gave birth to my hatred.
There was this time when I was in grade 4 and we had to paint egg shells, pierce a hole, put a string through the hole and tie it onto a hanger to create a wall-hanging. What I ended up was with innumerable failed efforts and broken egg shells dangling on strings tied to a hanger that screamed ‘Shame!’ while all the other kids went home holding their brightly colored creations. Thankfully I was in boarding school and could bury the egg shells, hanger and all. The memory however, never left me.
Then there was this other time in grade 5 when we had needlework. Not one to give up, I worked hard, harder than the others to learn the back stitch, running stitch, button-hole stitch, chain stitch, satin stitch and on the day of the exam, I stitched away following the instructions. Put my thread in the needle, made a knot, one stitch at a time – satin stitch for the flowers, back stitch for the stem, running stitch for the vase and time was up. I pulled my needle through the back of the square cloth given to us and made a knot and tugged. And there, to my utter shock the stitches came ripping apart leaving behind a cloth with a few stray stitches and a lot of needle pricks. I earned a grade “E” that year and adopted ‘once bitten, twice shy’ approach towards anything that was remotely related to needlework.
However, if you’re a girl and you were born in the seventies, there was no chance you could escape the drudgery of needle and thread. In grade 6 we had knitting classes -a bonnet and booties was what we had to knit! So, once more I set foot on the battle ground like a brave soldier; this time with a goal. I decided to make them for my younger sister and focused on the end result; not the interim troubles. I focused on mom’s and dad’s smiling faces on seeing the end result- they would be so proud. But every few rows of stitches and a hole would glare back at me. Rip and begin again. Rip and begin again.
A month before the final date for handing over our creations came, I handed over my handiwork to the matron. Mum, as we called her, spent all day knitting and it took her a night to create magic. My pink bonnet and booties were ready- with the perfect little stitches. Only, there was one hitch. They were too perfect. Mrs. Masters would definitely doubt them, so I gave in to my first criminal instinct and rubbed the bonnet and booties on the floor. There! They looked dirty, brown and perfectly me. Next day, I handed it over. Mrs. Masters held it up against the sunlight streaming through the classroom windows and said, “The stitches are perfect.” She looked past the dirt and I got a “E” again which sealed any hopes I may have nurtured at improving myself. Thankfully, I hadn’t and was left emotionally unbroken but learnt early that cheating was not my cup of tea.
To all those experts in craft, I look up to you’ll and completely admire your dexterity. For those like me, I’d love to read your experiences. Maybe sharing it will reduce the pain 😉
Coming back to the present; I wrote the poem on paper boats written as part of children’s literature festival. It won me a gold award. I hope you enjoy reading it.
The only things my little hands could make,
I’d watch them float on the blue-green lake,
Paper boats that grandma taught me,
At the edge of the pond, I’d wait to see,
How far they’d go…
Slowly they’d move, bobbing up and down,
Carrying an epistle to my parents in town,
Of grandpa’s home, the cows and the dogs,
The cock-eyed man who cut the logs,
How I loved it all but missed them so…
Wide eyes I saw, my boats stop; move no more,
Out came the pebbles that I’d held in store,
One, two, three, Plop! Plop! Plop! One here, another further,
Ripples they made- bigger and bigger,
And my paper boats began to flow…
When I could see those boats no longer,
Homewards I’d turn, content and happier,
On the table to find, neatly folded, a pink letter,
“Love you darling,” it said, mom and dad’s signature,
In Grandma’s shaky writing…
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