I had finished reading The Boxcar Children a while ago and fell in love with each word. I felt very comfortable with the assignment of doing a book report. Glancing over the packet of possible projects I decided that I needed to choose one that would be fun, impressive, and easy to pull off. The one that stood out on the list was to create a slot machine. I loved machines. I still do, anything with switches, buttons, lights, flaps, doors, ramps and the like, can keep my interest for hours. A slot-machine-book-report-project sounded perfect. I began to envision making a rolling bar containing various factoids about the book instead of cherries, and personal reflections written on round pieces of painted gold cardboard that would fall from the bottom chute. It all worked beautifully in my head. But, something stopped me dead in my tracks.
I read the story and knew what I wanted to make but still had nothing created the evening before my book report was due. It was Sunday night. Sunday nights were typically filled with anxiety because the weekend ended and a new week at school would begin. This night was unusually turbulent as I helped clear the dinner dishes away from the table and my mom asked me what I needed to put in my backpack for school. With a pounding heart and a lump in my throat, I confessed to my mother that I had a book report due the next day.
“What do you have left to finish?” My mother asked firmly.
“I haven’t actually started building it yet,” I replied looking down scuffing my foot in the carpet.
“Why haven’t you started on it yet? You have known about this project for a couple of weeks.”
I didn’t have anything to say. There were no good excuses that I could find for my negligence. The look of disappointment on my mother’s face as she ordered me to get started, just about killed me. And that was only the beginning of my misery.
She pointed me to the craft drawer where I miraculously found toilet paper tubes, construction paper, scissors, stickers, and glue. And, by sheer luck, there was an old vacuum box laying empty out in the garage. I feverishly started cutting holes in the cardboard and gluing paper haphazardly to cover the word, Hoover. The sudden frenzy of activity this late in the day caught the attention of my father who came to ask what was going on. My mother reported that she was helping me get organized to finish a book report.
The tone of confounded disbelief resonated in my father’s voice: “When is this due?”
“Tomorrow,” I said sheepishly knowing full well that the hammer of guilt was going to fall hard and that my dad would have something to say on the matter.
“You have an assignment due tomorrow, and have not said a word about it this whole weekend? If you didn’t have your mother’s help, what were you going to say to your teacher when she asked where your assignment was? Count your blessings, but you don’t deserve them because you have wasted all this time, not doing the work that is yours to do. Because of your mother’s work to help you to finish on time, you are going to come out of this smelling like a rose, but you will know that you didn’t do the work on your own. The world doesn’t work that way. You can’t expect someone to bail you out.”