I hate crafts. There, I said it. I hate crafts. I know that's blasphemy, especially for a stay at home mom. After all, isn't it our job to keep the kids entertained with pipe cleaners and paints and Play-Doh and anything else that can't be easily gotten out of carpet?
I recall when my daughter was small and trying to learn to use her little hands. One mother suggested I let her play with finger paints at the kitchen table to help develop her dexterity. I said "Sure, maybe," but I didn't. There was no way I was going to let any kid put her fingers in paint in my house.
Ditto for modeling clay. I'm sure somewhere someone has written a book detailing how to get clay out of carpet, but as far as I'm concerned, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cleaning tips.
I don't make clothes or accessories either. (I apologize to the lady who suggested I learn to make hair bows. I was very rude to you. My only excuse is, I had just learned to assemble a baby stroller in a 100 degree parking lot and I wasn't interested in anything else that would take me outside of my comfort zone.)
I don't enjoy cutting out snowflakes, or baking cookies in the shape of gingerbread men, or filling clear ornaments with candy sprinkles and hanging them on a Christmas tree. (Seriously, is that supposed to be some kind of holiday roach trap?)
There is only one craft that I've ever willing done with my daughter and that's the Valentine's Day shoe box. And the only reason I was willing to do this craft was because I wanted her to have a Valentine's Day box as beautiful as the one my mother had made for me in first grade.
My first grade year occurred in the mid-1960s when schools in the Mississippi Delta were only quasi-integrated. I was attending a "White" school, where I was one of a handful of "Negro" students selected to integrate the school. This put a lot of pressure on me and my family to hold ourselves to a high enough standard to rise above race stereotypes, and to appear assimilated while remaining left out. Nothing screams "left out" like a class project in which the white room mothers take care of the majority class members while the Negros are left to fend for themselves.
My mother, who also was not a fan of crafts, but who was a champion at achieving high standards, didn't flinch when she was told that she needed to arrange for me to have a decorated shoe box for Valentine's Day. I doubt she even knew what a Valentine's Day box was, but she would figure it out and make sure I had the most beautiful one in the classroom.
She enlisted one of her artistic friends to design a chic creation that would stand out among the others. The custom design was delivered on the morning of Valentine's Day by its creator, a woman who was more beautiful than the box itself. She was tall and well-dressed, with brown aquiline features. She was like a fairy godmother stepped off the pages of Vogue magazine. When she handed off her delivery at the door of the classroom, I felt proud that my box would be the most beautiful one in the collection. It was petite, covered in brilliant red and white fabrics and lace. Placed alongside the row of homogenized boxes on the classroom window ledge, all covered in the same red construction paper, my box was Cinderella next to a bunch of plain stepsisters.
That beautiful red box remains one of my cherished childhood memories. So I worked together with my daughter to create an equally beautiful box for her first Valentine's Day. We shopped together for materials, sifted through bolts of fabric until we found the perfect red felt, and we scoured aisles of local craft stores to find decorative hearts and do-dads to adorn it. Then we spent an evening measuring fabric and learning to operate a hot glue gun.
The end product was a confection of hearts, wings, pearls and doilies. And while it fell short of my first-grade vision, my daughter loved it. This morning, for the third year in a row, she pulled it down from its storage place in the top of her closet.
"I think this box has the spirit of Valentine's Day" she said. "I'm glad we made it together."
"Me too," I agreed.
And in that moment, I realized that crafts aren't just about making things, they're about creating memories together. And that made it all worthwhile.
Hal Hutchison, M.Ed.
Hal Wofford Hutchison, M.Ed., is a former columnist, writer and editor for the Arkansas Democrat and the Arkansas Gazette newspapers. She has also been a secondary educator, and a university counselor and administrator. She lives in Little Rock, Ark., with her husband of 23 years and their daughter.