Thursday, February 09, 2006

My kids' school observes "International Week" in late January and they learn about other countries. They are supposed to create a paper doll according to the fashion of their family heritage. My kids are of an age that, if I want the things to look nice enough to hang on the hall walls for all to see, I need to do the work myself. Some parents of Kenny's classmates recycled last year's doll and I have to admit that I used my best ideas last year. But I picked "Ireland" again for him because his given name is so Irish. Last year, the doll held a three-leaf clover and an empty sack with the word "potatoes" written upon it. I was surprised at how many people - teachers included - didn't "get" it. I thought it was a very clear historical reference. Across the doll's chest was the slogan erin go braugh and there was some debate with my younger brother who has studied gaelic on how to spell that expression.

This year, Kenny's doll held a rainbow in his left hand - and how upset I was to discover that the gay & lesbian movement has co-opted this image, one so readily identified by children of all ages and, to a lesser degree, cherished by those of us who know the Noah story with its divine promise - and an emerald in the other hand. I told you that last year's was better! I put a celtic cross around the doll's neck and a "kiss me, I'm Irish!" button on the lapel.

Obviously out of ideas for Ireland, I had to select another country for Tim. And it was important that the dolls be similar in decorative features or else one boy would be jealous of the other. I settled on French Canada because I had an idea of draping a few landmarks on a banner in the doll's hands. I have been to Québec on two different occasions, so I am familiar with famous landmarks: the Velodrome in Montréal's Olympic Village, Château Frontenac in the vieux ville and St. Anne de Beaupré on the outskirts of town. I downloaded small, crisp images of these places. I placed a red maple leaf in one hand and a blue fleur-de-lis in the other. I put a wrought-iron cross around the doll's neck and an embrassez-moi, j'suis québecois! button on the lapel.

Irish landmarks were difficult because I have not been to Ireland. But it is a Christian nation and I wanted to employ as many Christian symbols as I could. I have heard of the Marian apparitions at Knock so I found a picture of some white limestone statues of the crucifixion with the beloved disciple and the mother of Jesus at the foot of the cross. Then, Kenny's namesake, St. Canice, has a famous church in County Kilkenny - my brother tells me that "kil" means, not "hill" as I thought, but "church," so "Kilkenny" literally means, the "church of Canice" - so I used a picture of a headstone shaped as a celtic cross from the 5th century cemetery.

Personally, I liked Tim's better and many people remarked, "Oh, I didn't know that your family is French Canadian." I think, next year, my kids will hail from Nice on the French Rivera and then I can dress the dolls in just a bain de soleil tan and a smile!

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