Saturday, March 14, 2009
I started writing articles for children's magazines when we lived in Hawaii. The first one I wrote was about the Japanese Daruma "dolls," which I submitted to Highlights for Children. Daruma was a Buddhist monk reputed to be so persistent in his meditation that he eventually lost the use of his legs. The "dolls" are actually papier mache, or less commonly porcelain, figures that have no legs or arms. They also have only white circles where their eyes should be. Daruma is a good luck charm, and a person or business can purchase one in any size from about one inch up to nearly six feet tall, make a wish, and give the Daruma-san one eye by painting it in. If Daruma grants the wish, the lucky recipient rewards the Daruma by painting in the other eye.
We saw Darumas all over Japan, and then also in Hawaii. I thought the custom very interesting. In Japan I had visited the Jindai-ji Temple in Tokyo to photograph the giant Daruma and learn more. I thought it would make an interesting article for kids. But I wanted to do more. I wanted to make a craft project out of it and make a papier mache Daruma with instructions. I also wanted it to be a project the kids could do, so I needed kids to do it.
I enlisted the help of Leif and our neighbor boy, Myles and we had a great time making Daruma-sans. This photo is of Leif with his hands all full of the flour and water paste we were using and it was taken in December 1983 when he was a month shy of being nine years old.
If you've never made papier mache, you can't imagine just how much fun a couple of boys can have with the messy, squishy stuff! They had a blast. I took photos of them during the process and submitted some of them with the article. Highlights for Children bought the article and some of my photos of Darumas in Japan, but not the photos of Leif or Myles. I know I gave them some reward for helping me but I no longer remember what it was.
The odd thing about that article was, I sold it to Highlights in early 1985 and they paid me for it and the photos at that time, but they didn't actually publish it until January 2000! Since then, they have resold it to educational publishers and I've gotten more money from that than the the original sale. I think by the time it was published, and Leif was 25 years old, he had forgotten all about the papier mache project.
We always had fun doing crafts projects. I wish I had photos of them. One thing Leif and I built together when we lived in Germany was a "Western town" all constructed of popsicle sticks.