Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mad Men and Crayons

A child coloring quietly, possessed by a creative focus. Just a box of crayons, a piece of paper and a limitless stream of ideas.

You know this didn’t happen in my house recently. We’re still in the bumpy transition into summer made glorious agony by cold rainy weather.

The quiet scene happened in a commercial for Crayola crayons from the 1960’s that I saw a few days ago while visiting the Crayola “Experience” in Easton, Pennsylvania.

The “Experience”, once called “Factory”, was a good rainy day outing for my two girls. They designed their own labels and affixed them to fresh crayons, they watched a magic marker become filled with ink, and we sat through a twenty minute performance starring two animated crayons and an actual human who explained how non-toxic crayons are made of paraffin wax and pigment. It was before this show started that we sat captive watching old commercials.

The commercials from the 60’s seemed to be of a series, each with the same tone and intensity. The camera moves in from behind or close to the shoulder of a child, as if we’ve been invited into the inner monologue of the young person who is living out a fantasy through his or her work. We hear the voices of the children, or in other cases the voice of a male actor--slightly smug, cool, and not very salesman-like.

At the end, there’s a memorable line, setting the crayon apart from other toys or fads.

Fifty years ago the Mad Men were playing on parents' desires to give children something valuable and a box of crayons was presented as the alternative to gimmicky, battery-powered distractions. If the influx of those toys was swelling then, now it feels the wave has exploded into an overwhelming ocean of electronics. And in some ways, we are on the other side of the threat implied in the ads. Watching the old commercials, I realized not many ads or products today so overtly suggest that our children's own creativity is enough. I am more aware of the push to augment their talent, or take it to levels that would not be found within them alone.

I don’t know if it was nostalgia, brilliant advertising, or honest sentiment, but I spent a lot in the gift shop on crayons.

This commercial on YouTube was not the best of the ones I saw in Easton, but it’s a good example of the tone.

Thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Just Shred It

I recently bought a shredder, and the rest is history. Or should I say my history is shredded.

The papers that are now gone, testaments to an age before digital, were filed neatly in storage folders that I hauled around without thought. Eventually, after more than a decade of accumulation, the important documents had reached an age of no importance.

It was time to let go.

Did I need a rental agreement from 1998? My name wasn't even on the lease. 

Probably safe to shred.

Perhaps the lease didn’t need to be so thoroughly pulverized, but I’d reduced the process of cleaning to two choices: keep or shred.

Those duplicate checks the bank sent by mistake? Shred.

My husband’s taxes from a year before I met him? Shred.

Taxes for both of us for several years after we met? Shred.

Pay stubs, bank accounts statements, receipts, old insurance cards, documents about our first house.

Shred. Shred. Shred. Shred. Shred.

I’ve had my identity stolen, and the initial impetus for shredding these papers was to lessen the likelihood of it happening again. But the process of revisiting the papers was emotional.

I felt that the person who kept such meticulous files had changed, at least in a literal sense. I no longer have the time or inclination to save a receipt from Kinko’s, file it, and lug it to three states and five dwellings.

That temperament and those papers were from a bygone era; one that needed paper and possession.

That thought struck me most when I found a small folder designed to hold business cards. These cards were once valuable--the information was not easily found online, you would not be scanning the card into a computer, or receiving contact information from an email, and the best way to reach someone was still through calling them on an actual telephone on a number not everybody had.

I am not sure when the year 2000 started to feel like ancient history. But the more papers I had to look at, the more the time appeared remote and unconnected.

This week on The Educated Mom we look at our first question for our Summer Series: When can a child walk to a friend's house alone?