Yesterday I spent a happy afternoon playing with rubber cement.

I have never been neat with my hands. (Me and Jack Lewis, I tell you. We have so much in common! I was so happy when I read Surprised by Joy and learned this about him)  I am a fast typist and I can play the piano if expectations are low, but that’s about it. I have learned to knit on about four separate occasions, and each time I dropped and added stitches with wild abandon, creating enormous gaping holes, eventually giving up not in despair but out of sheer boredom. I know knitting is huge right now and everyone is giving away home-made scarves for Christmas, and I’m very impressed but not envious of the work involved. Why knit? I mean it, really?

The woman we’re staying with has contracted to do the cards which are sold to raise money for the local children’s hospital, the one that reaches out to the very poor who could not otherwise afford medical care. The cards are made up from the children‘s artwork. She has to make 2000 of them, and I’m amazed at how labour-intensive they are. She is a silk screen artist, and each card is made by hand, printed onto paper and then cut and glued into place. Some designs need four or five bits cut and glued onto cardstock. The results are unique and charming.

Donn and I are helping. I don’t know the first thing about silk-screening, but I am safe around scissors and glue, so I‘m working on that end. It’s a bit nerve-wracking, as these are to be sold and I’m not very good at fiddly things like straight edges, but on the other hand, having a picture a teeny bit askew could be construed as appealingly child-like. I hope, anyway.

The cards are gorgeous, and if I could think of a way to sell them to you that didn’t involve me having to put any effort into it, I totally would.

I told Donn that the smell of rubber cement took me right back to Kindergarten. He was surprised. “Surely that was awfully dangerous for young kids!” he said. But I’m sure I couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6  when I had it. I remember my little pot with the Elmer’s cow head on it, the fun lid with the brush in the middle, the way it could be formed into little balls or stretched until it snapped, the warm friendly enticing smell of it…

Hmmm. Maybe this is why I never did very well at math.

(Am I the only one with such a dangerous childhood? Do you remember playing with rubber cement in grade school?)

I cook meals for them–spaghetti, pizza, Mexican food. They exclaim over the unusual tastes. She cooks for us–Korean beef, miso soup, spicy salad with avocado and cucumber, potato pancakes dipped in soy, eaten with chopsticks. Every meal has rice, usually soup, and tea. We exclaim over the unusual tastes. She and I are both hoping to broaden our cooking repertoires. According to her, spaghetti is exotic and Korean food blasé. I have the opposite view, and I carefully watch her measure and chop, committing to memory as much as possible.

Donn cuts paper and prints cards and I glue and paste. We are making great progress, except at 2000 cards there is still so much work to be done! “God sent you to me,” says our hostess. “If you weren’t here, I would be crying. There’s no way I could do this on my own.”

The date to move out of her basement, however, has been moved yet again. Maybe Monday, now. In the meantime, my fingers are sticky with glue. The children want to help, but I’m reluctant to let them–not because of the so-called dangers of rubber cement, but because I am afraid they will mess them up. We only have 350 finished, out of 2000; there is still so much to be done!