Little Surprises Around Every Corner, But Nothing Dangerous!*

July 4, 2010

A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men. • Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

The fourth of July is one of my least favorite holidays, not because I’m not patriotic, but because I don’t like fireworks unless they’re being set off safely by some professional who knows what s/he is doing, preferably at Disneyland, where I can enjoy them from a distance while waiting in line to ride on the Matterhorn or It’s a Small World or something else where I’m outside and can see the sky. You already know how I feel about parades.

I don’t enjoy hearing fireworks explode near our house. I am reminded of the neighbors we once had whose sons were old enough to know better but still liked to put pieces of some sort of high explosive under manhole covers and blow them up. It was stupid and dangerous and their father thought it was hilarious. Those of us who lived close by were less entranced.

If you want to light the fuse on Dragon Dazzlers, Pop-Em-Off Whiz Bangers, Whippety Snap Surprises, and other fanciful sparkly stuff, do it somewhere else. Endanger your own property. Not mine. Not your neighbors’. Having fun that causes someone else anxiety seems to skew the whole equation of delight.

Alas, it is easy to rant, isn’t it? I meant for this post to be a reminder that you can Sillybrate a Mirthday in many ways and to share with you how to make an “Ire Cracker,” a RecycleLit idea from Dr. Z’s House of Fun. And so I shall.

“Ire Crackers” were born when I was trying to decide how to use a big box of empty toilet paper rolls delivered to my classroom.** My first idea was to use them for Toilet Paper Roles, a classroom version of literary/pop culture charades in which the roles were hidden in the rolls (lame wordplay never fails to amuse me as you’ve probably noticed). We stapled one end shut and used a binder clip to close the other end until it was drawn from a big basket. A version of this activity allows the use of toilet paper to create accessories and props. You can recycle this paper to make toilet paper modeling clay.

“Ire Crackers” was a stress relief idea we thought up while we were trying to figure out a clever delivery method for our anonymous messages of good cheer to faculty and staff, family and friends, and utter strangers. I’ve always loved Christmas crackers and it was just a small step from sharing some of these traditional celebratory treats I’d picked up cheap at a ninety percent off after-holiday sale (since seen in Harry Potter) to making our own. It was student who said they reminded him of fire crackers and a short mindtrip from there to “ire.”

How to make them? Stuff the toilet paper tube with good cheer. Jokes and silliness and inspiring quotations and little gifts. I like to use small bottles of blowable bubbles, balloons, bubble gum, and other things that “blow up,” in keeping with the firecracker idea. A bit of tissue paper wadded and stuffed in each end of the tube keeps the treasures inside.

Wrap the tubes in tissue paper, using a piece large enough to gather and tie on each end. Tie off the ends with ribbon or string. Decorate the crackers, writing a message on the outside. One of my favorites is this quotation from Nikita Khrushchev who reportedly said, after he was replaced as Soviet premier, “Life is short; live it up!”

What’s your favorite holiday and how do you celebrate it?

Live and work, but do not forget to play, to have fun in life and really enjoy it. • Eileen Caddy

* Quotation courtesy of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka in 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

** Why the box? I always recommend that teachers provide opportunities for folks at home to contribute to the life of the classroom. I created a wish list that included things that don’t cost any money along with the other stuff like smelly markers and crayons and paper and feathers and sticky-backed googly eyes—all the things that a teacher often has to purchase with her or his own money so that there’ll be a variety of creative materials to inspire students. The box of tp rolls was a particularly generous contribution that lasted us for several years!


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