Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Archery Party - Prologue

Emily turned eight this week.

And she asked for an archery party.

Now, her grandfather in Singapore is an archery coach (specifically, a compound bow coach) so when I think of archery, this is what comes to mind:

Yep, all the doodads that come in the post from various archery and sporting goods stores, and which I reship back to Singapore to Dad. The kids and I have almost made it a game to guess what the various thingamajigs are for in the packages arriving at our door. Having been thus exposed, though, we are now familiar with the nomenclature and can toss it about like (fake) pros: vanes, nocks, sights, shafts....

So when Emily said she wanted an archery party, I felt compelled to clarify things with her a bit.
"Soooooo..... you want a Merida party?"
"No! An archery party!"
"Not Robin Hood?"
"No! Just archery!"
"Are you sure? Not William Tell? Legolas? Katniss Everdeen?"

Okay. No characters. Just the sport. Just archery.

Yes! Just the kind of party I like. A blank slate with lots of possibilities. Nothing girly or sparkly or princessy. Something even a boy could turn up for. When you have three girls, that's kind of not the norm.

Say..... have I ever told you about my childhood? Apart from the fact that it was cardboard-enriched and with a sewing grandmother in it? I haven't? Eeek. 

So I grew up with boy cousins. I had only one girl cousin, and she was in college/university then, so I didn't see her much. My boy cousins were all much older than I was and I hung out with them all the time, whether they wanted me to or not. I didn't play with dolls. I only had two dolls, to my memory- one I cut the hair of and then ignored and the other I pulled the arms off to enact battle scenes. Mum tossed that latter doll in the trash (she thought it was broken) without my knowledge one day and I was quite upset because I'd lost my sole battle action figure. And that was the end of my doll phase. I also didn't do dress-up (whatever that was). I wasn't into princesses or fairies or whatever. I never wore skirts or dresses (hated them), to the point where my kindergarten teacher asked my mother if there was something wrong with me because all I ever wore was jeans and shorts. Not very enlightened, especially for a teacher, I thought. 

The cousins crafted blowpipes and wooden rifles that could shoot seeds (which we went on adventures through the woods to harvest). We threw boomerangs that Dad made. One of the cousins made me a rubber band gun, which I treasured. They went fishing in ponds and big monsoon drains (what we might call small canals here). I was so desperate to go fishing with them that Dad made a deal with me: learn to ride my bike, and I could. So I did (and decided quickly that late-night fishing was the single most boring pastime in the known universe). And we made bows and arrows out of sticks and string. Mum had an old-fashioned outdoor broom that was a bundle of long, pliable sticks - it got gradually skinnier and skinnier as I pilfered its innards for my bows and arrows. I made paper quivers and shot everything in sight. We lived in a bungalow then and the woods were my playground. I climbed trees. I ran barefoot everywhere and made mud pies and mud balls and stone-and-flower-and-seed soup. My favorite playmates were the boy neighbors next door. 

When I was in first grade, we moved to an apartment in the town. There were no more trees to climb or canals in which to fish. My boy cousins moved away and grew up. I stayed indoors more and began to watch (first black-and-white, then color) TV. My favorite shows were X-Men and Superfriends. I learned to sew and draw and play with cardboard. Eventually -and to the shock of my mother- I started to wear skirts. And sew dresses. Which I wore. And buy jewelry and watches and shoes and other girly things. But I was always slightly wild on the inside (and sometimes also on the outside). When I was in (all-girl) middle school, my (male) Physics teacher, writing on the board during our first lesson, suddenly turned around and said to us, "Actually I don't know why you're here. Physics is for boys." I was incensed, and vowed to prove him wrong. (What is it with unenlightened teachers?) Then, years later, I got married and secretly hoped for daughters, so that I could train them to be wild just like I was. And my wish was granted - thrice. 

Except those daughters liked pink. And Hello Kitty. And flouncy skirts. And dresses. And princesses. And fairies. And sparkles. And glitter. And dolls! Whoa! I never saw that coming. 

Do they know how different their mother was (and still is)? How she had no clue what to do about stuff like those? How her childhood was practically useless as a source of inspiration for the GirlyPinkyPrincess world they now adore? This is why all my ideas for crafting and sewing come from them- mermaid tails, fairy wings, princess gowns, pavilion tents in blush and bashful...... none of those came from me. I wouldn't have known where to  even begin, if not for my girls.

So every time they say, "Let's plan a party!" I hope for a blank slate that's any color but pink-or-purple. 

And let my inner child come roaring out.

P.S. Thank you all for your support and generosity during the Bella Bag sale and the Bella Bag Pattern launch. It blew me away. I couldn't have done it without you guys! Now that it's over, we can move back to our regularly scheduled programme of manic crafting and posting. Yay!

Tomorrow: Scenes From The Shooting Range!


  1. Ahh... a tomboy after my own heart!! I love it!!

  2. Completey understand about the girl thing. I grew up with 2 brothers... now have three daughters (one turned 8 this week too!). With the first daughter I banned pink clothing, idealistically thinking that I'd dress my girl in blue, green, orange. Ha! That didn't last long. Now I can do a whole load of washing that is entirely pink : )

  3. Wow! Lovelovelove your tale. I'm not a girlypink princess (and neither were my daughters) but I didn't have the enriched outdoor/physical childhood that you did. Lucky girl, you were. And yay for your determination to prove your unenlightened physics teacher wrong!

  4. Sapu lidi! I have one in the backyard and N is forever pilfering from it :D

    Happy birthday, Emily!

    1. Yes, sapulidi! Best crafting resource after cardboard. The things I made from it!!!! Pity I can't buy them here. And no, don't post one to me. Customs would have a fit.

  5. I really love this post... I have never been a girly woman, and across my daughters I have learned so much.

    Wow... I'm impatient to see your scenes from the shooting range!!!!...

  6. It's a mystery to me HOW daughters come out so GIRLY compared to their exceedingly non-GirlyPinkyPrincess mothers! My daughter is 5 1/2 and extremely fashion conscious (something I didn't learn until college!) and oh, so girly!

  7. I'm coming out of total lurkdom... I was/am a total tomboy and my daughters are pretty pink conscious and princess enamored too. Maybe that is why I read your blog, even though I very rarely follow blogs of people I do not personally know. You are anomaly like me: a tomboy who sews. (And you've turned me to the endless creating possibilities of cardboard as well, which is a fantastic material, so thank you!) I frequently made my own bows and arrows too. Actually it makes me really excited to see how you did yours because the ones I made totally sucked. (weeping willow branches are a little TOO pliable) And I want to make some of yours now, which of course won't suck, they will be AWESOME! Whether my kids use them or not I know I will want to!

  8. I was enthralled by your story the entire time. You are a terrific writer. Excited to see how the archery party went.

  9. Your childhood sounds fantastic, especially the bungalow years!

    Did you make Emily's bow? If so, I hope you'll do a tutorial!

  10. I have read through all your tutorials for the archery party and just wish to comment how insanely good this is. My 5 year old son (come to think of it, or either of my daughters) would be in heaven with a party like this - thanks for the inspiration and all the information!


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