Monday, June 28, 2010

Famous in a Small Town

Paintings from last year

Another summer, another week of our annual summer art program for special needs kids. Last year at this time we were trying to sell our house and move out of state, so I didn’t expect to be doing this again. Our summer art program is fantastic for children, with or without special needs, not so good for 60 something, out of shape women with bad knees and bad arches and a severe need for an afternoon nap.  I like to call art camp the reason God invented Celebrex.

This year, the children got to do pottery, storytelling, painting, dance (called “movement”, like they weren’t moving the whole rest of the time) and collage. There were five groups of children so they rotated through the classes. I was with the second oldest group, which comprised two children in power wheelchairs, one with a walker, two children with autism, one with Down syndrome, one with an unspecified form of cognitive disability, two siblings, and two children of my co-workers.  Despite the wide range of special needs, they behaved exactly like any other group of  children that age: distracted by the construction going on outside, inclined to converse with their best friend while being given instructions, imaginative at using any art supplies as small weapons, stubborn about trying anything outside their comfort zone, and generally in need of those crowd control tactics beloved by generations of teachers everywhere. Compared to the younger groups, they were easy to handle, especially with the aid of several teen volunteers and one of the siblings, and for the most part understood the basics of the tasks and did an impressive job with them.

On our first day there, I noticed a reporter accompanied by a photographer being led from group to group. It started me thinking about the advantages of living in a small city. There are stories in our local paper every year about our art program, our annual canoe trip, and our two major fundraisers. These are not just small paragraphs in an “around town” section. These are full articles with bylines and pictures. I suspect that if we existed in Philadelphia or Atlanta, this would not be the case. As Miranda Lambert sang, everybody dies famous in a small town.

The reporter was back for our culminating event, the recital at the end where the children danced “The Ant and the Grasshopper” and displayed their work. By this time, I had forgotten the bad knees and bad arches, the spilled paint, the “swordfights” and got teary eyed when most of our group, who were playing dragonflies, remembered where to stand and when to flash their lights. By the time the ants carried off the dead grasshopper and took their bows, a process that took longer than the actual dance, I was convinced that it was the best production of  “The Ant and the Grasshopper” ever.

I can’t wait for the reviews.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


I spent most of yesterday afternoon renewing my passport. It sounds like a simple thing to do - you can even fill out the form online - but each of the different steps required driving around town. I had to go to the bank to get my old passport from the safe deposit box, then from the bank to Walgreen's to get pictures taken. After hanging around until the pictures were ready (maybe ten minutes), I had to go home to fill out the form, print it, sign it, and find an envelope. Then I had to drive to the next town to go to the post office. (Yes, we have a post office in our city. Several. It's just that I live so near the city line that I'm actually closer to the post office in the next town.) There was a line at the post office, and traffic on the interstate. So it went.

This takes me back to when I first got a passport, in 1986. Prior to that, my only out of the country travel were day trips to Canada and Mexico, and in those days all you needed to cross those borders was a driver's license or student ID. In 1986, however, I decided to go on an Earthwatch expedition to Zimbabwe, and for that I needed a passport.

Having heard of the horrors of passport photos, I was surprised to find that I actually liked mine, despite not liking any pictures of myself, ever. I didn't think to ask if I could get extra copies. Subsequent passport photos have looked more like passport photos. I was also surprised at how quickly I got it. I was told it would take 4-6 weeks. Instead, it took a little over a week. Holding the passport made my trip seem real to me for the very first time. By the time I had to surrender that passport to get a new one, it had been stamped in England, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Brussels, Italy and France. I still have it. It's been stamped "cancelled" and has two holes punched in it, but my picture can still be seen.

The next edition, the one I just surrendered and hope to get back, similarly disabled, has an even more exotic history. It has been stamped in the Carribean, Canada and Mexico (in a less trusting time), Japan, Thailand, Hungary, France, Argentina, Brazil, Port Lockroy, Antarctica, and Cape Horn,  Chile. The Port Lockroy stamp has a penguin picture on it. The Cape Horn stamp has two. I tell people my passport looks like it has been issued by Pixar.

I don't have any exotic trips planned yet for the new passport. I just want to have a current one ready in case I do make plans to travel. It should come in handy if I ever get a yen to go to Fiji. Or Arizona.