My Thoughts on “Family” Homework

Family homework does hearken back to my own childhood, which was besprinkled with wretched diorama projects, year after year. I still remember one assignment that stumped me: creating a model of life in the Alaskan wilderness. It did get completed…but, not by me! In truth, my incredibly crafty mother constructed the entire thing, including an amazing canoe, an igloo, and a lashed together dock with some spears leaning against it.

It was awesome, and I got a great grade. Thanks, Mom!

Sadly, this all comes full circle when you become a parent yourself, most recently for us in the form of Zelda’s bridge project, which required that we build a model and a display board for one of Portland’s historic bridges. She chose the Broadway Bridge.

In real life, the Broadway Bridge is painted “Golden Gate Red”, so we figured we would use red licorice to make our model, since it was already the correct color. No painting necessary! We tested both Red Vines and Twizzlers. The latter I prefer to eat, but they were too soft for the bridge. The former won the day, and after we stiffened it with a little rebar, it was time to build. (Rebar, in this case, was straightened paper clips that we ran through the centers.)

Over the course of many weeks, Tom and Zelda worked on the bridge. When it was finished, they placed it upon piers made of marshmallows. Originally, the project was conceived with footers that were two marshmallows high to keep it all in scale, but within 24 hours, the whole thing fell apart. We had to go back to the drawing board and were, predictably, running short on time. Therefore, maintaining proper scale was thrown out the window. Or, to put it more poetically, we decided that the river was at flood-stage height, and went with the single marshmallow piers that are pictured above. We also added some lateral support to prevent the bridge from falling over.

Yes, we got to build two bridges for family homework!

The display board went a little more smoothly. Zelda hand-lettered a bunch of the labels with single letter stamps, which required a lot of iterations, but the red ink matched the bridge in color and the font looked very “period.” She also was featured in one of the photos of the bridge, which her classmates enjoyed.

At school, she and some classmates even made up a song about the Broadway Bridge, sung to the tune of Oh My Darling, Clementine:

The Broadway Bridge is in Portland, 
It would not fit in a fridge.
It is for cars, bikes and walkers, 
It is nowhere near a ridge.

It's a double-leaf Rall bascule, 
It is bigger than a smidge.
It is painted Golden Gate Red.
Yes it is, the Broadway Bridge!

Needless to say, Zelda participated more enthusiastically in this family homework than my pouty, diorama-hating ass ever did.

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