Art and About
Engaging with the creative force in everyday life

December 2nd, 2007

The Traditions That Go Back to Childhood

Posted by christina in Web Columns

Some traditions are passed down through the generations. Other traditions are intentionally crafted to suit a certain group of people or situation. And then there are the traditions that sneak up on you, that you may not even notice have been granted “tradition status” until you find them missing one year. We recently discovered that preschool artwork falls into the sneaky tradition category for us.

My son, Tyrian, was the first to enter preschool four years ago. He produced seasonal crafts that would come home regularly, we displayed them for a while and then they went into a box. By his second year, I recognized the rhythm to the crafts, made some mental notes about how Tyrian’s maturing fine motor skills were evident from one year to the next, but I still mostly displayed the art as a token of support. I didn’t have emotional connections to the pieces.

Tyrian moved on to Kindergarten and continued crafting, although usually his creations did not come home until the target holiday was over so displaying them didn’t make much sense. We stored his favorites and are bringing them out this year at the appropriate season. So far he has greeted most of the unburied treasures by saying, “Why did you put that up? I made it in Kindergarten.”

I have been so busy following my son’s journey through school craft projects that I initially didn’t notice that my daughter, Allyndreth, had taken careful notes on what her brother had made in preschool, when he had made it and when she was supposed to make it. Allyndreth is two years younger than Tyrian and started preschool right after he left.

Our first crafting crisis came last Advent season. For two years, my son had made an advent chain of red and green strips of paper leading up to a Christmas bell. We were instructed to tear off a loop for each day of December until the 25th. Our family decided to give the ritual a little more weight, so each day we wrote on the strip of paper something for which the children were thankful. We then taped these strips to the wall so that as the chain was depleting, our gratitude ladder was growing.

But last year, Allyndreth’s class did not make an Advent chain. Its absence was the trigger that caused us to realize we had started a tradition. My husband and I stayed up late on the night of November 30 making two Advent chains to have ready for our children when they woke up on December 1. We were already planning our private Advent chain party for this year when to my relief, Allyndreth came home with an Advent chain from school a full five days early. Glory Hallelujah! Now I just had to make one for my son and our Advent was saved!

Our second crafting crisis came during November of this year. As the leaves turned from green to orange, Allyndreth started talking about making her hand turkey at school. I learned that for Allyndreth, the quintessential craft of her first year in preschool was the hand turkey – a tracing of her open hand on autumn-colored construction paper with feathers glued into each finger slot. An eye placed strategically in the thumb and a small bric-a-brac wattle glued off the tip of the thumb and you’re all set.

Allyndreth was sick the first week of November and fought hard not to stay home from school. When I learned that she was afraid she would miss the hand turkey project, I called her teacher, Miss Susie, and alerted her to the importance of the hand turkey. Miss Susie said they would not be doing hand turkeys while Allyndreth was out. Thanksgiving came early this year. When we were healthy enough to go to school the second week of November, I was certain that this would be the week Allyndreth would make her hand turkey. After all, there were only precious few days before Thanksgiving break.

The days ticked by. No hand turkeys came home. Everyday, Allyndreth went to school and hoped aloud that THIS would be the day they made hand turkeys. By the end of the week, I figured I had to stick my nose into Miss Susie’s lesson planning. As innocently as possible, I asked Miss Susie when they would be making hand turkeys this year. She replied they were going to do some other turkey projects this year. I must have gone pale because she looked at me with great concern. I asked if, by any chance, Allyndreth could privately make a hand turkey. Miss Susie immediately understood the seriousness of the situation and said she’d be happy to pull Allyndreth aside to make a turkey. Three hours later, when I picked Allyndreth up, she came out proudly displaying her Hand Turkey 2007 and Miss Susie said several of the children expressed that they were feeling bereft of hand turkeys and had joined in the fun.

Next year, Allyndreth starts Kindergarten and the amount of crafts she produces will begin to decline. My son, now in first grade, is doing almost no seasonal crafting at school while his attention turns to less-crafty academic pursuits. As I packed up Thanksgiving decorations last weekend, I sighed a little to think that this was probably our last year with a new hand turkey added to our collection. To be honest, I never even saved Tyrian’s hand turkeys from preschool because I was too ignorant to realize I would want to use them again and again as part of our Thanksgiving ambience. He made me a few this year, but he made them with the skill of a seven-year-old, not the whimsy of a preschooler. They are lovely, but not quite the same.

Allyndreth has six more months of preschool and I now know to savor each craft for the time capsule that it is, and for the tradition of fine art that has crept into my life.

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