The only parameters for our DIORAMA! were that it be some sort of cage and that it contain some sort of vertebrate. It also must be referred to with great enthusiasm: DIORAMA!
The kids are studying vertebrates with their school librarian and would be transforming their library into a zoo. Throughout the course of this week, we were told, each class would get to go in and view all of the cages. (Subtext: NO PHONING THIS PROJECT IN.)
I checked the Official DIORAMA! Handbook and noted the first rule of DIORAMA creation:
I. Wait until the last possible minute to start your DIORAMA!
I cheated a little bit on this rule by hoarding a shoebox from the new running shoes I bought the week before, and when I was cleaning the boys’ room, I did hand select and set aside one small white bear that I thought would work well for our DIORAMA! But that's as much thought as I gave it.
So at 4pm on Sunday, Gus and I sat at the kitchen table staring at the white bear and the shoebox that would soon become our DIORAMA!
II. Just go get some glue and shit. Surely something will come to you.
On the way to get the glue, I grabbed two handfuls of corks from our cork collection in the glass vase on the piano. (Do not let the words “glass vase” and “on the piano” fool you into thinking our house a fancy place. CORK COLLECTION is the operative phrase here.)
“What are you going to do with the corks?” Gus asked.
I was going to use them to build a fence around the cage. And send a subtle message to all of your teachers about WHO WE O’BRIENS REALLY ARE.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) the corks would not adhere to the box, because Elmer’s School Glue SUH-HUCKS. Why do they even call it glue? It should be called “gl”. You get it on there, you stick one thing to another …
Nope. Won’t stick.
III. Rifle through the trash can. Who knows? You might get lucky.
We’d been spring purging the house all day, and when I went to toss out the gluey corks I discovered a bunch of photos from Larry’s "Photography Phase". A photo of some purple flowers. A photo of some buds on a branch next to a lake. A photo of a tree with a couples' initials carved into it. A photo of some water.
So I spray mounted the photos to the inside of the shoebox to form an “environment” for our bear, who is technically a polar bear, but now that we found all these springy lake photos would have to just be an albino grizzly bear.
“What’s an albino?” Gus asked.
“Someone without pigmentation—or coloring-in their skin.”
“Like a polar bear?”
“No. LIKE A WHITE GRIZZLY BEAR.”
“Here,” he said, grabbing a blue marker, “I’ll start drawing the ocean!”
If an albino grizzly bear is living by a lake, I see no reason why he can't also have a pleasant tropical ocean for a front yard.
“Go for it,” I told Gus, who began furiously scribbling an ocean.
IV. Bring the outdoors in.
Next I asked myself, what would the Museum of Natural History do? So we ran outside and got the albino grizzly bear some sticks and bark for his cage.
Once the bark was placed and the pictures were mounted and the ocean was drawn and the bear was secured in his habitat, I asked Gus, “How are you feeling about this project?”
“It needs some more action,” he said, waving his hand around, like a designer on Trading Spaces.
“Agreed, sir. Let us go to the Dollar Store.”
V. They’re not fake flowers, they’re PERMANENT BOTANICALS.
We purchased some “silk” ivy from the Dollar Store, and I stapled it all around the top of the cage to give the DIORAMA! its needed “action!”
And while the final DIORAMA! is no Alexander Calder masterpiece, I'm pleased to say no tears were shed during its making, Gus and I did it together, and best of all--