I stood in Aisle 10B of the crafts store with a high school student bent on building two human arms complete with hands and fingers. He would then accompany this vivid display of with dense and complicated passages of prose explaining the physiology of the nerves involved but I had no part in any of that; I was just the ride.
Though I’ll admit when the call came asking for help getting to the craft store I dropped everything. Because don’t school projects furnish the most cliff-hanging and hilarious drama imaginable? Just being in the presence of the appropriate materials seemed to fill us both with a kind of giddy optimism.
“Look! 10 pound bags of plaster of Paris! Get three just in case! Look! Kits for making a model of the human hand! Get two and we’ll stick them on the end of each arm!” All these things did we buy and more besides, and went home happy.
I was happy anyway, since all I had ahead was supper and a little TV and a nice early bedtime. I thought all was well for him too – until a dire second call came in a day later : The compound wasn’t setting up right; the arms looked nothing like arms.
And that’s when I remembered the sphinx sculpture my best friend and I had tried to make for Ancient History way back when: its plaster of Paris on my sphinx hadn’t set up either! We bought bag after 10-pound bag of the stuff and still the beast had this little shrinking pinhead and hips that just kept on growing each night in my cellar: while we did our Algebra homework and ate our simple suppers; while we slept in our girlhood beds.. Wider and wider the sphinx-body grew, pooling and creeping like lava-flow.
It all came back to me as we stood once again in Aisle 10B, scanning the shelves and considering the problem. We stood and we stood until suddenly I remembered: I save skeletons! I love skeletons! And wouldn’t this store carry those big bags of fiberfill you use for stuffing pillows? And also yarn to act as nerves?
So bags of puffy stuff it was, and yarn, and poster board too; also, rolls of bandages from the drug store and we were SET.
Two hours later we had wrenched the arms from the torso of my favorite little skeleton and padded them with an exquisite layering of fiberfill “muscles” held in place by a great winding of bandages. I even went and got some of my knee-high pantyhose and encased the arms like two fat sausages in case he’d like that effect. (He didn’t.)
Ecstatic myself, I saw a good day’s work. The student saw an all-nighter and then some.
Why? Because for him the great challenge still lay ahead. It was the challenge of how to convey in mere words the intricate and divine engineering that lets our bones or the bones of Adam’s brethren, simply and miraculously…. get up and dance. 🙂