Surprise Balls!


Surprise balls! and they weren’t always round!

Life with my family and cousins in the mountains was like unraveling a surprise ball, new colors, new surprises, every moment…memories never to be rolled back together in exactly the same way! And believe me, I’ve tried over the years! In the summer we’d travel as a family up the windy mountain road through Sparta and Elkin, past the little porch holding up a shack on the side of the road, and a man sitting there who had the longest beard I’d ever seen! We were convinced he must have been very old and had started his beard when he was a newborn. Even the mountain roads themselves now seemed like the beginning of unraveling those amazing surprise balls.
Up at the Inn at Roaring Gap, there was a tiny little gift shop full of unusual things. Off in one corner, close enough for short people like me to reach was a basket and a shelf full of these amazing Surprise Balls in a variety of shapes… Swans, Ducks, Fairies, and Such! Each was about the size of a big softball! Granny would let us choose one, and if we ever could get past that first step, the second of letting ourselves unravel such beautiful creatures was even harder. Imagine a beautiful swan with a long graceful neck and majestic wing feathers, endearing eyes, and a bright orange beak! It was so tempting to take it home, name it, and build it a beautiful little forever nest. And it was equally as tempting to defeather and unravel her to uncover even more magic deep in the heart of the Swan.
I remember carefully pulling off each feather and sorting them to piles of shapes and sizes. Then I’d carefully unravel the thin strip of white crepe paper, trying to guess what the color was I’d see underneath that would be coming next. When one color of crepe paper would end and new was about to begin, there would be a tiny surprise that would fall into my lap from unraveling. Then a pale pink crepe color would take over my unwinding process. Eagerly I’d unwind the pink, trying to guess the next color to emerge, and magic momentum would build as I anticipated a new little surprise dropping in my lap. The surprise were so fun: a miniature harmonica, a little man strapped to a parachute, a shrunken sponge, a special ring, a tiny maze puzzle, and on and on! The changes of crepe colors were enough of a surprise, and half the fun for me was in trying to rewind my surprise ball, and ending with a similar shape as what was in the beginning. Sometimes the swan would transform into a less beautiful bird, but I would never classify it as the ugly duckling.
These surprise creatures were embedded in my memory forever and many a time I would try my hand at materializing that memory. Probably my best attempt was when I made a Pregnant Surprise Ball for a Baby Shower. It took me forever, first of all to collect appropriate little baby items that would fit in tiny spaces and easily be wrapped cozily with crepe paper…pacifier, diaper pins, tiny board books, and on an on…In the end ‘she’ (the surprise ball) was ‘surprisingly quite pregnant’ by the time I finished her! I’m amazed I made it to the shower before the baby came!

My plan had been to make it into the studio tonight to make a surprise ball, but that will need to be another day!

Meanwhile, I’ll unravel surprise plans in my dreams! Sleep well!

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