I always feel a little guilty when I think how long it’s been since I’ve done a craft project with my kids. When they were small – at least numbers one and two – we’d whip recycled materials into an artistic representation of almost every season. We’d cover the dining room table with the vinyl tablecloth saved especially for catching craft gak. We’d paint and glitter to their hearts’ content and I’d pat myself on the back that I’d saved their malleable minds from another hour of dreaded TV.
Add more kids and less patience and craft times were fewer and farther between.
But Good Friday – the kids were out of school and I’d found a beautiful Easter/spring craft project online. It’d been awhile. Maybe I was feeling nostalgic. Maybe the years had dulled my memory of how harrowing the combination of wet, gelatinous substances and children can be.
So we set out to make string Easter eggs.
First I dumped a mess of embroidery floss in the middle of that glitter-spattered vinyl tablecloth, the kids thrusting their hands in and claiming their colors. Oh, but wait, we have to ‘cook’ the paste, a combination of flour and water on the stove top. Stirring that – and fighting their sisters for their turn – kept their attention for a little bit. While it cooled, we blew up the balloons. When I wasn’t about to pass out from lack of oxygen, I was dodging spit missiles as the underinflated balloons shot from their mouths. About this time, their father called, stating “Better you than me.” Thank you, dear. But even as I said this, the peals of their laughter drowned out my words. My girls and I were united in this experience, this common goal. We were gathered around that palm-tree tablecloth laughing and smiling and having fun. The separation of all time and space disappeared. It was the same feeling I’d had whenever we’d gathered at our craft table – no matter the year or house.
And then we actually started the project.
Ever tried to separate six strands of embroidery floss into two sets of three without tangling them? Ever asked an impatient seven year-old to do it? She was out by the time the first strings knotted. My other two started dipping the first string they’d unraveled in the goo right away, only to realize they had to unravel about eighty more to finish one egg since they’d blown the balloons up to dinosaur egg proportions. And the goo, oh the goo. Because I’d told her not to use too much, my oldest ran her fingers along the string to siphon some off, but started at the bowl and moved upward, splattering the slime in a wide arc over her shoulder. Even a tablecloth especially set aside for this purpose couldn’t help that. I was a thread-separating machine, draping strands over the backs of their chairs so they could wrap them around the balloons. My five year-old ran past the chairs and swept them all to the floor in a heap. It quickly became a learning experience for them in colorful language.
My oldest hung in the longest with me, the other two abandoning the project for bopping extra balloons around. But even she bailed out eventually. My husband arrived home to me, alone at the dining room table, wrist-deep in wheat paste.
I was miffed that they’d left me to do our project alone. But I was also relieved. Definitely more relaxed. I had fun choosing the colors and winding the string around the balloons in criss-cross patterns. I made a lot less mess than the little ones.
That night, my youngest helped me hang them up to dry on a makeshift line in the bathroom, ferrying them two at a time in her little palms from the dining room. And they all came in to admire them hanging there. Easter morning they had tons of fun pricking the balloons with pins and watching them fizzle and shrink down before shimmying them out through one of the gaps.
Jennifer Butler Basile
They are gorgeous.
But there are still flakes of dried gak on every surface they touched. And I’m not quite sure if I’d do it again – at least as a kid project. When I posted a picture of the eggs on Facebook, another mother said she doesn’t have the time or patience for a such a project. I quickly replied that I didn’t either! But I forgot the winky face and I fear she thought I meant but I did it anyway. Though I shared the best shot of the stinking eggs, there was a whole lot of backstory that photo left out. The don’t-touch-that-not-yet-not-like-that-wait-no-slow-down-aaaaahhh-#$%@*$! Believe me, I am no Martha Stewart martyr.
Those were the moments craft time taketh from my patience and sanity and peace of mind. But there were moments that gave laughter, joy, and bonding. I think that’s why I periodically try such projects. I think that’s why this little batch of eggs makes a good metaphor for the greater yield of motherhood.