Monday, 15 June 2009

The end of the world as we know it

Throughout May and June, my mind has been taking rather an eschatological bent. No, no, I don't mean the Mayan calendar nonsense (although I firmly believe if the end of the world is predicted often enough, someone's bound to be right). I mean, as the school year draws to a close, so do the events associated with younger daughter's elementary school education. When this happened with elder daughter five years ago, I felt quite a pang, but this time, I feel rather relieved. As usual, I'm rather terrified to be once again stepping out into the unknown, but surely the next school (with a total of twenty students) has to be an improvement on her current school where she consistently falls between the cracks.

Anyway, back to "last things". Last weekend, we threw what we fervently hope was the last theme party for younger daughter. Between both girls, I've given eighteen theme parties. The most nightmarish times were, of course, the years when they overlapped and I spent April and May making lists and buying supplies.

This year, I decided to cheat a little and (kind of) repeat a theme. (I've only done this once before: elder daughter got a Harry Potter party at age eight, and younger daughter had one at age ten.) Five years ago, I gave a "Blast to the Past" party for elder daughter who was then in Grade Six. Her Girl Guide troupe had essayed tie-dying the previous winter, which gave me the courage to hunt down cold dyes, invite thirteen classmates to the house and set them to work on the back deck. It was a breezy day in late April, and their hands were red and raw with the cold, but I was able to send them home with damp shirts in plastic bags with dire warnings written in red about washing the shirts with the family laundry. No parents showed up on my lawn with burning torches and cleaning bills, so I guess it was all right.
This year, however, there were no dyes to be found in Hades. The craft store I had used before has downgraded itself to a drab and depressing home decoration kind of warehouse with shelves and shelves of cheap knick-knacks, and all I had in the basement were two dusty packages of Tintex, one blue and one purple.

I ended up ordering from the Dharma Trading Co.. I gather they are the go-to people for this kind of thing, having been established in 1969 and now operating out of San Rafael, California. You can't get much more hippy-dippy than that. No, really, I mean it. Check out their introduction.

Geez. Well, having terrified myself thoroughly by reading the instructions, I began repeating that well-known mantra from that famous hippy, Eleanor Roosevelt: You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

This is why I spent Saturday morning perspiring through a face mask (provided by the company) while I mixed up urea, the dyes, and a big bucket of soda ash. The Resident Fan Boy chopped up vegetables and decided where to string up balloons which I'd inscribed the night before with various Sixties Slogans.Okay, so we changed a couple.

Elder daughter worked her magic, as she has done in the past, festooning the house with posters and streamers. I particularly loved this Rainbow Door she came up with:She wanted to create a Sixties slide-show for the computer, but ran out of time, particularly when our first guest, the notorious Russian Prodigy who has featured in a couple of my younger-daughter's-school-nightmare rants, showed up nearly half an hour early. R.P. settled into the living room and questioned younger daughter in her usual condescending sweet-as-pie manner. I didn't witness this, but elder daughter, who doesn't know Russian Prodigy, reported that she was soon wishing heartily that R.P. "would just leave". She also reported that R.P. ventured upstairs to our bedroom (which has an "out of bounds" sign) several times in search of our cat, but beat a hasty retreat when she realized the room wasn't empty. Another parent has told me that R.P. believes that I hate her and is terrified of me. Pardon me while I take a break for some diabolical laughter.

Anyway, despite the lost sleep, chewed fingers, uncontrollable screaming at inopportune moments (I'm talking about me, here), the party was all right. No one used the squirt bottles of dye as weapons. No one got an unsightly rash. Two little girls spent snack time discussing other birthday parties, none of which had included younger daughter, but she seemed oblivious, and did not lose her composure once, although she may have snapped at me briefly when I was supervising her with the tie-dying.

The next morning, after an evening binging on leftover tortilla chips, I rose bright and early, and carefully following the instructions, rinsed out 13 tee-shirts, laundered them (twice) in the specially-provided detergent, and tossed them in the dryer. It was rather neat to see each little girl's personality emerging from the rivulets of rinsed-away dye and discarded elastic.

See? They're rather like Rorschach tests, aren't they? Can you guess which little girl is impatient to finish, and which little girl spent more than an hour painstakingly planning her design? Which little girl had done tie-dying before, and which little girl is on the autism spectrum?

Maybe it's safer to test me. There were three tee-shirts left over and tons of dye, so despite my aching feet and bone-weariness, I stumbled out back into the mildly humid evening and quickly did the remaining tees. The first is done by twisting the shirt into a cone, the second (my favourite) by folding the shirt accordion-style then tying it in a knot, and the third by wrapping pebbles and twigs into the shirt and sealing the pockets with a rubber band.

Far out. Well, that's it. No more birthday parties. That way, if the world does indeed end on December 21, 2012, I won't have spent the previous spring in a dither of performance anxiety. Okay, I probably will, but it will be about something else.


JoeinVegas said...

They are all pretty nice. Good idea for a party, but too bad they couldn' take them home. Much better for you to wash them first though. Nice mom.

Persephone said...

The rather complex method and slightly caustic ingredients meant that I couldn't package them up for them to finish at home. Also, the method required leaving the dyes to soak in for several hours. Each little girl had her tee-shirt by sunset on Sunday, and some of them wore them to school this morning.

Jane Henry said...

What a fab idea for a party, Persephone. I think you're very brave though. I have resisted arts & crafts type parties for years and this would just about kill me I think. I can imagine all mine thinking it fantastic though.

I've got a couple of last moments this term as youngest leaves Infants and 2nd leaves Juniors. The trouble is there are so many leaving shows/discos/assemblies, by the end of it I'm just glad it's over. Hoping no 2 won't be as emotional as her sister was. That was terribly wearing!

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

What brilliant shirts were made! I totally wouldn't trust me to be able to do this - so would probably need a responsible adult around to supervise me!

Persephone said...

Oh, listen, you two, if I can do this, anyone can! I'm quite possibly the least "crafty" person you're ever likely to meet, but was forced into it with the advent of elder daughter who took after her grandmother and aunt from the first get-go. It's really more organization than talent, believe me! (I was forced into organization of sorts when younger daughter's learning disabilities became apparent.)