Purple Pilgrims and the Death of Artistic Choice
As a child you learn many lessons:
- Regardless of how far your garden hose sprays, you’re still too close to the hornet’s nest.
- You never want to discover the quantitative value for the phrase “mad as a hornet.”
- Regardless of how sturdy it seems, an umbrella is not an adequate substitute for a parachute.
- Your cousins lie.
- You can be lying in a crumpled heap, several bones broken, some of them relatively important, and the first thing any adult will think to say is: “look at what you did to my umbrella.”
- Even though most varieties of snakes are not venomous, you still don’t want them to bite you.
- Convincing your cousin to let a snake bite him so that you find out whether or not it’s venomous, seems like a good idea, but it will really piss-off your aunt.
- Did I mention cousins lie.
- Never utter the phrase “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never harm me,” to someone who is in possession of sticks or stones. In the savage jungle of playground justice, you will be pelted with a barrage of sticks and stones.
- When adults say cheaters never prosper, they’re full of it. Cheaters prosper all of the time, mostly because they’re cheating.
- Don’t melt Play-Doh on the stove. What seems like a voyage of scientific discovery to you, is just wanton destruction to some people.
- Burning Play-Doh emits a noxious smoke.
- Smoke alarms are startlingly loud.
- Melting crayons on the radiator is fun, until your mom finds them.
- And finally: artistic creativity is not always welcomed.
It happened when I was a first-grader at R.R. Rogers Elementary School in Jamestown, NY.
Our class was making a Thanksgiving Day mural from construction paper. We were broken into groups, my group was tasked with making the Pilgrims.
We immediately found there to be a dearth of orange construction paper, the color used to make the Pilgrims’ faces and hands.
I made a command decision: we’ll use purple construction paper for the Pilgrims faces and hands. “It’ll be avant-garde,” I said.
Note: I’ll bet you don’t think a six-year old would use the word avant-garde. It’s my story, and I’ll tell it the way I want.
Tracy the tattletale strongly objected and ran to inform the teacher, (Tracy was such a conformist) but as a renown tattletale, the teacher simply told her to hush, and just work with the others.
Note: not only was our group saddled with Tracy the tattletale, we also had Keith the paste-eater. It was a nightmare.
We completed our project and handed it in with a great sense of pride and accomplishment.
Our teacher was displeased. It’s difficult to overemphasize just how displeased she was.
“They’re purple,” she shrieked, as if we were a bunch of colorblind idiots.
“We know they’re purple,” we told her, “we’re not kindergarteners.”
As it happened, the mural was going up on the wall for a big parent/teacher thing that night. She’d left that bit of information out of the instructions.
Note: on the heels of Halloween, and our pumpkin making spree, she should have known we’d be low on orange construction paper, which brings me to another important lesson learned: when at all possible, deflect blame.
It was the end of the day, and there was no time to do anything about it, so up they went.
In the end the parents were simply amused by the purple Pilgrims; it seems adults really don’t expect a lot from six-year old children.
I wonder if Salvador Dali’s teacher criticized him for drawing everything all floppy.