The Droopy Droop Girl Folds Some Cranes
by Ginger Mayerson
During the summer art class, Marie, who some mean girls used to call the Droopy Droop Girl, and her new friends learned how to paint with poster paints and draw with charcoal. This was very messy work, so the teacher, Miss Cora, had them wear old clothes and a plastic apron she helped them make from a garbage bag and shoelaces. Miss Cora wore old clothes and the plastic apron she made to show the little girls how to make their aprons.
Sometimes there were guest teachers for special lessons. The first guest teacher, Miss Sara, showed the girls how to do paper cutouts on tissue paper to make fluttery decorations to string on strings and hang from the ceiling. Another time a guest teacher, Mr. Daniel, taught the girls how to carve potatoes to make stamps and they all made beautiful cards. With another teacher, Miss Kayla, they used red dye to paint animals on white muslin, and then put the cloth in blue dye to get purple animals on a light blue background and they made lovely flags and table napkins. The youngest guest teacher, Miss Linda, was an art student at the local university. She told the girls not to bother with their aprons because they’d be doing origami that day.
The little girls had never heard of such a thing, but they thought the little squares of colorful paper were very pretty. Some were solid colors, some had pretty patterns like their best dresses, and some were white.
“Should we paint the white ones?” Anita asked. Miss Linda said no.
“Should we potato stamp the white ones?” Julie asked. Miss Linda said no.
“Should we cut designs on the white ones?” Nora asked. Miss Linda said no.
Miss Linda held up a white square and said they were going to fold cranes that day and she showed them how to make the folds and then gently pull the wings so the paper cranes stood up by themselves. There were many folds and many things to remember to fold a crane. Miss Linda was a very patient teacher and sat next to each girl to help her with her crane while the others followed along. Soon they were all folding cranes and laughing and talking. Miss Linda told them that origami came from Japan and that for centuries Japanese children learned how to do this. She said that if you fold one thousand cranes, you will always be happy.
“One thousand cranes?!” Nora and Julie and Anita exclaimed.
“One thousand or more,” Miss Linda said.
“That’s a lot,” Marie said softly and began to fold faster. By the end of the hour, she had folded nine cranes and asked if she could take the left over paper home.
Marie folded cranes while waiting for Miss Ida to pick her up. Then she folded cranes in the car on the way to Miss Ida’s house. Then she folded cranes while teaching Miss Ida to fold cranes. She folded cranes in the car on her way home. She folded cranes until dinner, then after dinner until bedtime. Then she folded cranes after breakfast and in the car to Miss Ida’s and folded cranes until lunchtime, and then folded cranes right after lunch. When she ran out of squares, she stated using the magazines in Miss Ida’s recycling basket.
“Marie, do you want to make corn muffins for tea?” Miss Ida asked, looking at Marie’s bent neck and intent face.
“No, ma’am,” Marie said. “I’ve got to fold a thousand cranes.”
“What?” Miss Ida asked.
“I’ve got to fold a thousand cranes.” Marie repeated.
“Why?” Miss Ida asked.
“To be happy.” Marie said, ripping a page from a magazine.
“Oh? And where did you ever hear such a thing?” Miss Ida asked.
“At art class.” Marie was so focused on her crane folding, she never looked up at Miss Ida.
“Well,” Miss Ida said. “Let’s go show your teacher some of these cranes.”
Marie nodded and shoveled the cranes into the tote bag Miss Ida held for her.
Miss Cora was finishing up with a ceramics class, so Miss Ida and Marie sat patiently waiting for the students to leave. Marie’s fingers flew as she made crane after crane.
“Hello, Marie,” Miss Cora said. “Ah, folding cranes, I see.”
“Yes, she is,” Miss Ida said. “Did you tell her she had to fold a thousand cranes to be happy?”
“No,” Miss Cora said.
“Oh. Then why does she think she has to fold a thousand cranes to be happy?” Miss Ida asked.
“Well, let’s ask her,” Miss Cora said. “Marie, why do you think you have to fold a thousand cranes to be happy?”
“That’s the rule,” Marie said bending lower over her work.
“What rule?” Miss Ida and Miss Cora said at the same time.
“It’s the rule Miss Linda told us yesterday,” Marie said.
“I see,” Miss Cora said. “Let’s call Linda and ask her.”
Miss Cora talked on her cell phone while Miss Ida watched Marie fold cranes and tear pages.
“Well, Marie,” Miss Cora said. “Linda said there’s no rule.”
Marie put down the crane she was folding and folded her hands.
“Linda said,” Miss Cora continued. “That folding a thousand cranes for happiness is a custom in Japan.”
Marie looked up at her. “A custom?”
“Yes, a custom like sending a birthday card,” Miss Cora said.
“Or shaking hands,” Miss Ida added.
“Or saying ‘Hello’ when you answer the phone,” Miss Cora said.
“Or calling me Miss Ida and your teacher Miss Cora instead of Ms. Martin and Ms….” Miss Ida looked at Miss Cora.
“Ms. Luna. But I like it when you call me Miss Cora.” She smiled at Marie. “So a custom makes people happy, and if it’s not making you happy, then you can stop or do it differently. It’s your choice.”
“So… is going to bed early a custom?” Marie asked.
“Ah, no, that’s a rule to keep you healthy,” Miss Ida said.
“Holding mama’s hand when I cross the street?” Marie asked.
“Also a rule to keep you safe,” Miss Ida said.
“Putting banana on my cereal?” Marie asked.
“Oh, yes,” Miss Ida said with a smile. “That’s a custom and a choice.”
“Oh,” Marie said. “I understand. Now I will choose my custom to be to only fold cranes when I feel like it!”
“That’s perfect!” Miss Cora said.
“Excellent!” Miss Ida said. “Now what are we going to do with all these cranes?”
“I have some ideas,” Miss Cora said.
So Miss Ida, Miss Cora, and Marie spent the afternoon making crane mobiles, crane necklaces, and a crane diorama with an empty photocopy box turned on its side. They called it “Crane Lake.” Miss Ida cut out some trees and clouds from a magazine, Miss Cora, painted the grass and glued in some blue glitter for the lake, and Marie had to make a few more cranes especially for it. Some of the cranes were on the lake, some were flying, and some where resting on the grass. At the next art class, Marie and her friends laughed and talked and enjoyed themselves while making crane mobiles, crane necklaces, and crane dioramas, which were all very pretty.
Anita made “Cranes at School,” which had cranes flying over a playground.
Julie made “Disco Crane,” which had glittery cranes at a dance party.
Nora made “Crane Families,” which had big and little cranes at home having dinner in one part, and watching TV in another.
The week after that, the girls went back to drawing and painting. They made lots of paintings and drawings of many things, including paintings and drawings of colorful paper cranes.
And Marie and her friends had a very happy summer making pretty things with Miss Cora.