Charles and Sally

Charles and Sally
en route to Le Diner en Blanc

Le Diner en Blanc New York

Le Diner en Blanc New York
Lincoln Center 2012

Monday, January 21, 2008

Walking the High Beam

When we made plans to visit the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey with our daughter, Nancy, and her two daughters, I never expected to be walking along a steel girder 18 feet in the air as part of the "Skyscraper!" exhibit. Nina, age 7, didn't quite make the height guidelines' minimum of four feet tall. (Maximum height is 6'8" and maximum weight 300 pounds -- not a problem for any of us.) But the rest of us did, and with the encouragement and inspiration of Anna, 15, Opa (i.e., Grandpa) and I lined up along with her, got strapped into our safety harnesses (just like the kind real construction workers wear), and walked the narrow beam. Even though I knew we couldn't fall because of the harness and the rope we were holding, it was a little scary looking down and realizing we were walking along a very narrow walkway, very high up.

When I expressed some hesitation to Anna, she said, "Well, you went bungy jumping!" And so we did, a year ago in Queenstown, New Zealand, the bungy capital of the world. But that moment of terror just lasted a couple of seconds at the jumping-off moment, until I was caught by the bungy cord. This time it lasted for the several minutes it took to walk the beam, get the rope unstuck from the corners, and finally find solid ground again. Anna scooted right along on the beam -- I was glad she went first, so even though I was slower, with a more measured walk, I knew I could do it -- and knew I had to, for my granddaughters' sake!

It was an educational experience, too, since much about the exhibit gave some fascinating facts -- like the fact that Mohawk Indians still are among the largest ethnic group of workers who labor high above New York and other big, skyscraper-rich cities. It was educational for the museum workers too. One of the young men who helped us harness up said, "I like to see older couples like you do this -- gives me hope for my future!"

Friday, January 18, 2008

soap carving for grandchildren

After my husband told me of his long-ago memories of his mother sitting by his bed and helping him to make carvings out of soap when he was sick as a child, I thought, "What a great activity to do with my grandchildren!" And they wouldn't even have to be sick! So I packed a couple of enormous bath-size cakes of Ivory Soap in my suitcase (wondering what airport security guards would make of them), along with directions I found on the Internet, and soon after my arrival at my granddaughters' home, sat down with two of them to proceed to carve.

It certainly seemed much easier on paper than it did on the actual soap! One of us (not me) had done it before, and managed to produce a beautiful little bunny rabbit, but for the other two of us there was much frustration. Somehow the knife would either not cut out enough to make the desired shape, or would cut too much so that we lost first one rabbit's ear and then the other, and finally gave up, ending with a snowy hill of soap shavings, which my frugal daughter plans to reshape into usable soap. The good news, though, was that nobody drew blood -- as a loving grandmother how would I have explained that?

I felt a little better about the less-than-100%-successful activity when I read a hilarious online article by former elementary school art teacher Linda Godfrey called "Whatever Happened to Soap Carving?" in which she writes of this popular school activity in the 1950s: "How many children sacrificed fingers on the altar of Soap Sculpture will never be known, but it's a safe bet the company making Band-aids raked in as many bucks as the soap manufacturers." And I can attest to her observation that "soap is not really that easy to carve... and most finished 'sculptures' end up about one inch in diameter and resembling a lakebed pebble." Too true! You can read the article for yourself at http://www.cnb-scene.com/psoap.html and consider it a challenge to prove her wrong.