This Kaleidoscope has moved many places with me, and I don’t remember when it came into my possession. Looking at it now, I see the type as 1970’s, in the way time makes us able to classify collections, characteristics that are invisible to us as children.
The butterfly revealed by the orange circle was the most fascinating butterfly. It had a window to the world. The box has two of these portholes, on opposite sides.
The Kaleidoscope has the heft of a mailing tube, with a visible seam where the label wraps around. The eyepiece is a hole cut from red cardboard, revealing the plastic underneath. There are no objects orbiting around inside the case to create the patterns. This is a type called a Teleidoscope, which according to David Brewster, Scottish physicist and inventor of the Kaleidoscope, means the mirrors inside transform the world around you into art.
I remember pointing the Butterfly Kaleidscope at the world around me as a girl, and seeing transformation, and yet recognizing some of the forms and colors, even as they were reflected.
On the occasion of celebrating an Orange Tuesday Birthday, I went into the archives for this birthday card with a whimsical orange giraffe. My mother neatly wrote what my gifts were inside the card. I don’t remember the dress, but I remember the tool set.
I found the dollhouse I made with this tool set at age 8. My father supervised as I hammered together scraps of plywood. The wallpaper in the kitchen may be a scrap of the wallpaper from our actual kitchen. The stove is an empty vanilla pudding box. That is an orange light switch on the right.
The wallpaper in the living room came from our neighbor Mrs. Firth. The loopy orange carpet was found in many parts of our full size house. Can you tell it was the Seventies? I created a pastel bookcase and just noticed the row of love poems across the top shelf, which is in counterpoint to the rather forlorn spool person facing the wall. I feel like interrupted a serious conversation.
I don’t remember playing with dolls inside this house, but only the process of creating the building, and furnishing the rooms. In a journal from grade 3, I describe building a yard for the dollhouse out of Lego. The dollhouse was my world to bring forth.
My friend Ruth sent me this photo from her garden. She said it made her think of me(orange) and Stratoz(flowers). The yellow emerging from the front makes the point that orange contains yellow! I met Ruth when I was 12. Our fathers had adjacent offices at University, and Ruth’s father told Ruth to look for me on the first day at my new school. It’s amazing how one suggestion can turn into a life-long friendship. Ruth lived close to the school, whereas I took public transit. She would invite me over to have lunch at her house. Ruth’s mother makes me think of orange, since she would send me to the fruit drawer in the kitchen, and oranges were the only fruit I liked.
Ruth’s father was a fine photographer. I scanned this photo of his, and noticed the soft focus of the doors against our portrait of friendship. Ruth takes after her father with her fine photography as well.
As a girl from Canada, I spent grade 4 in El Paso, TX, my parents’ home town, while my father was on sabbatical. I went into Spanish class behind all the kids who had taken Spanish since Kindergarten, or who already knew the language. My Spanish teacher was encouraging, and I enjoyed drawing and labeling my familiar world in unfamiliar words.
I learned the names for colors, like anaranjado for orange tinted, named for the fruit naranja, the orange. In illustrating surprise, my subject had orange socks and an orange sweater. She looks creepily tranformed by the surprise, all the blue drained from her eyes, and an open mouth as if to scream.
Later, I realized I knew the Spanish color for green already, in the dish my mother made, Chile Verde.
Embroidery floss carried color to me as a girl. Anchor Stranded Cotton came loosely coiled and held together with tiny paper labels, and woe to anyone who lost one of the bands while working to unfurl enough floss to thread the needle. I don’t believe the colors made up for the tangle, and the frustration that set into my shoulders when stitching. This sun applique had dark orange, tangerine and nectarine satin stitch, and french knots for the the centers of the circles. I loved the colors, the silky texture, the way the thread built up the linen stretched across the embroidery hoop, but I avoided stitching, leaving the project in my sewing basket, which itself had a satin lining.
I wanted to love embroidering, in order to collect more embroidery thread. Look at this wonderful collection from Alicia Gallo on Flickr!
My copy of 40 Below: Edmonton’s Winter Anthology arrived this week. I was excited to see my name in the table of contents and look forward to reading many accounts of Edmonton winters. I took this photo of a snow man(as I referred to him) with my mother’s Brownie camera in 1975 when I was 8 years old. I don’t remember the actual making of this snow man, but I remember the photo. I built with snow sticky enough to mold the form, the kind you can roll a snowball on the ground into a a larger and larger sphere. I wonder what the buttons and eyes are made of. The one arm looks suspiciously like a kitchen utensil, and the perhaps a doll’s toque on top, with a pompom. His expression is stoic(perhaps he predicted his fate). He stands near my favorite weeping birch tree with the white bark that I could peel off in scrolls and imagine writing novels on.
My third grade teacher had us write a journal, and I discovered this entry when going through my old papers in the attic. Someone had knocked down my snow man. I don’t remember that either. I was comforting myself with the photo I had taken of it, and the possibility of rebuilding. My teacher was concerned whether it would be warm enough. On a whim, I looked up the weather for that date on the Government Canada climate website, and March 8th was about 14 degrees Fahrenheit. March 7th was just at freezing and it snowed. My teacher asked if I used water in my craft of snow man making, and I had an unequivocal no. Perhaps my Texan parents didn’t have the technique to pass on to me. I don’t know if I rebuilt, but looking at the data, I would say no.
Check out the 40 Below book trailer, with its own theme song.
Z is for ZOOM. In the 1970s, Zoom was a place I wanted to be. Although I lived in Canada, a transmitter relayed the wonder of WGBH-Boston to my television set via Spokane’s PBS station. I didn’t know where Boston was, except as the home of ZOOM, where kids my age made things. This is the essence of what captivated me: making. ZOOM kids encouraged the audience to write them letters, and the address was incorporated into the show with such rhythm, that I had it memorized.
As an adult, I found a copy of Do a ZOOMdo at a thrift store, and all the ZOOM goodness was mine for a dollar. The pages are saturated with color, and instructions for many of the projects I watched raptly at age 8 or 9. I kept it on the shelf in reserve, just happy it was there. I picked it up to write this post, and yes, the most memorable project is there: Stained Glass Cookies.
Two details imprinted themselves. One was the sour ball candy, and how the kids crushed them and filled in the cookie dough frames. The other was how baking transformed what was crushed into translucent color. It is no surprise I married a man who eventually became a stained glass artist. . .
Bonus: Bernadette Yao’s Butterfly Arms(if you watched ZOOM you know what I’m talking about.) Also, the ZOOM logo has some fine orange in it for Orange Tuesday.
Y is for Ysleta, TX. I lived in El Paso, TX during the 4th grade, when my father was on sabbatical, and we rented a house near my grandparents. I went to Loma Terrace Elementary School part of the Ysleta Independent School District. The name Ysleta came from the mission settlement, established in 1682 by Spaniards and Tigua Indians fleeing the Pueblo Revolt in NM. El Paso annexed Ysleta in 1955. I didn’t know any of this when I was in the 4th grade, but I did love the sound of the word Ysleta.
Moving from Canada to the desert of Western Texas was a shock. One way I insulated myself was reading. My father kept our schedule of visiting the library on Saturdays. I have 5 gold stars on my Texas Readers Club Certificate of Award. Each star stood for 10 books. Now I want to look up the authors in the border of the certificate. I only recognize Lois Lenski.
T is for Taos, NM. My memory of Taos is intertwined with taking photos with my mother’s Brownie camera, which was probably a Starflex, with an aluminum reflector that flipped up from the top of the camera. To capture an image, I had to look down into the camera, which fascinated me at age 7, since what I wanted to photograph was in front of me. The round adobe ovens of the Taos Pueblo reminded me of the igloo shape often associated with Canada even if you lived in a city like I did.
For the first time, when I got these photos out, I noticed that there was a name on the sign in front of the Mission Church, San Francisco de Asis, and discovered this is the church that artists were inspired by, including Georgia O’Keefe and Ansel Adams.
The Taos Pueblo was many interconnected spaces, yet unified with the adobe. The photo my sister Cate and I was probably taken by my mother, who was the original owner of the camera.
Q is for Québec City, and my first visit to Eastern Canada in 1983, and my second in 1985. I went on a French exchange trip to Edmundston, NB in grade 10, where all the kids took pity on us Western Canadians and spoke to us in English. We had a day trip to Québec City, where all the signs are in French, and there are buildings made of stone, which was impressive to an Alberta girl from a city celebrating its 75th Anniversary. Even more impressive was the dessert cart in the café where several of us went with the Spanish teacher. It was a cart of beauty.
Two years later, when I had moved to Bethlehem, PA, my friend Ruth from Edmonton, and I planned a trip to meet in Montréal, and then travel to Québec City to stay with her aunt, and check out the city. The Château Frontenac is on a cape, rising above the city, and overlooks the St. Lawrence River. I didn’t know what a dormer was called, but I loved the windows with topped with miniature towers.
Ruth took this photo of me in front the Bonhomme, mascot of the winter Carnavale which is an observance of Mardi Gras. Note my hair had grown out from an accidental buzzcut(maybe a more common occurance in the 1980’s than in other eras), the asymmetrical ruffle on my tshirt, and the very stylish velcro fastened powder blue runners(as I called them in Canada). Ruth wrote a caption on the back of the photo: Typical Tourist.