The other day at the grocery store I ran into an elementary school teacher who was buying the construction materials for gingerbread houses: graham crackers, powdered sugar and candy. (Shudder, you purists, at the substitution of graham crackers in place of actual gingerbread, but please remember this is an elementary school classroom of 20-plus kids, most of whom just want to get their house built so they can start eating the stale gumdrops off the roof.) The teacher told me it was her second trip to pick up more graham crackers, since so many of them had shattered in the building process.
It reminded me of the time that a friend and I found DIY instructions for constructing a teardrop trailer out of graham crackers. In case you’re not familiar with the concept of a “teardrop trailer,” all you need to know is that it has a lot of rounded edges. In fact, it’s pretty much all curves and arcs.
My friend and I should have known better than to embark on this unattainable project based on that information alone; however, in our defense, the DIY tutorial used phrases like “easy peasy” and “you just simply” in the instructions. The cheerleading siren-songed us into believing ourselves capable of the impossible, instead of trusting our intuition and grasp of our own creative limitations. We would have been more successful constructing a tractor-trailer truck out of graham crackers, or a crate for a container ship.
I won’t bore you with the details — you can see where this is going. In short, we very quickly found ourselves in possession of not an adorable edible teardrop trailer, but instead 18 cups of pulverized graham crackers, not one of which was suitably-shaped for the trailer template.
Now it turns out that you can soften graham crackers by putting them in the microwave for 20 seconds with a damp towel on top, cut them while soft, and then let them harden up again. (You’re welcome.) But our DIY instructions made no mention of that, and thus we did not take the one step that might have rendered the project viable.
You know by now that no teardrop trailer resulted from our artsy craftsy endeavors. But something far more lasting did: a memory. It was a memory in the making almost as soon as we embarked on the effort, which was pee-your-pants funny.
In the same way that a disastrous trip into the woods to cut a scraggly pathetic Christmas tree is far more memorable than one in which no one gets wet, cold, and hungry while finding a perfectly conical tree, an arts and crafts project that fails spectacularly provides years of opportunities for nostalgic self-mockery: the quintessential gift that keeps on giving.