Scrap Story #7: V’s Fire Truck
Saturday, September 17, 2011
In 2008, my friends Cathy and Jenny came down for a quick visit over the holidays. Cath brought her son Victor, who was two-and-a-half at the time, with them. Despite the fact that he had never been here before, being able to go to The Scrap Exchange was a big selling point for getting him excited about the trip.
“We’re going to go to North Carolina and go to The Scrap Exchange and make a fire engine. Doesn’t that sound like fun?” (They lived around the corner from a fire station and Victor was in a huge fire engine phase at that point in his life.)
Along with being in a fire engine phase, he was also in a “No” phase. Like most two-and-a-half year olds, he would get in moods where he would say no to everything, it didn’t matter what you asked him. Do you want to walk? No. Do you want to ride in your stroller? No. Do you want to eat ice cream? No.
Are you two? No.
No. No. No.
So Jen and Cath and Victor drove down and got here in the afternoon and we hung out for a little bit and then decided to keep things moving and go over to The Scrap Exchange. Cath said, “Victor, do you want to go to The Scrap Exchange?”
Victor said, “Yes.”
Jen said, “That’s funny, that’s the first thing he’s said yes to all day.”
So we go over to The Scrap Exchange and figure out what we can do about making a fire truck. We go through the barrels in the Make-N-Take room and pull stuff out and Cath tries to realize her fire engine vision and she gets something put together and we give it to Victor to test out and he goes “Vrooom” and runs it across the floor and three of the four wheels fall off.
Back to the drawing board.
We rethink the engineering and shore things up and have him take it for another spin and after a series of tweaks we ended up with something that seemed like it would hold up.
Victor loved that fire truck and proceeded to play with it more or less continuously for the rest of their visit. We went out to brunch the next day and Victor took the truck in to the restaurant with him. It got its fair share of admiring stares.
One of the things that’s interesting about making playthings from Scrap Exchange materials is that they have a completely different value from store-bought toys. This is something people don’t necessarily see if they’ve never done it.
One of the criticisms I heard about The Scrap Exchange when I first started getting involved was from people who felt that the organization wasn’t really saving anything, that these materials that had been deferred from the landfill were taken and made into projects that were then thrown away. Big deal.
There are a couple of responses to that.
One is the “process not product” response: the importance is not the end result but the process of thinking of something and putting it together.
One is the fact that pretty much everything gets thrown away eventually; making something out of materials that were going to be thrown away anyway is still better than buying things made in China and throwing them away in a week or two when they break.
But the most important, I think, is that I’ve talked to many, many people over the years who have told me about projects they made that were really meaningful to them and that they kept for years.
I remember working at an event in Kingsport, Tennessee, there was a kid who was working on a fairly elaborate project and while he was working he told me all about the project his brother, who was now in the Marines, had made a number of years earlier. Then his mom came up and told me all about that same project. Clearly, this was an important project in the life of that family.
Things you make yourself are inherently special; they have a magic about them that transcends their form or function.
They might not look like much to an outsider, and they might not hold up to kid abuse for long, but they’ll always be special.
Like Victor’s fire truck.
Help! The Scrap Exchange Needs YOU!
Visit the Scrap Exchange website for full details on our fundraiser, or to make a tax-deductible, online donation through PayPal or Network for Good.
Rather go old school? Checks can be made payable to The Scrap Exchange and mailed to 923 Franklin St, Bay 1, Durham, NC 27701.