Our seven-year-old Nicholas recently had a party. He also has attended several kids’ parties this year and has come home from every one of them with a bag or bucket of items that he considers treasures and his parents consider crap–you know, cheap plastic toys made in China and low-quality, over-packaged candy and gum. We didn’t want to buy any of that stuff for him to give away, but neither did we want to have a lame party with no goodies to take home.
Several weeks before the party, Daniel and I decided we were not going to be able to fix two pieces of broken furniture that had been stashed in our basement ever since each of them had a sudden dramatic collapse in which two legs came off. One of them was an antique end-table we’d bought at an auction. The other was a Gothic-style chair with a high, arched back filled in with carved wooden tracery, which his grandparents had found in their basement, mysteriously–they couldn’t recall how it got there! Both were beautiful pieces of woodworking, so we couldn’t bear to put them out for the trash, but we were skeptical about our abilities with wood glue or carpentry techniques, and we have so many chairs and end-tables that we didn’t really need these.
I did some searching online, and that’s how I discovered the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse. This excellent organization takes donations of assorted stuff that might be useful and sells it to people who want to use it. I spoke with someone there who agreed that our broken furniture might become part of someone’s art project. When Nicholas and I brought in the broken furniture, we saw PCCR’s store for the first time. It’s great! So much cool stuff! We had fun browsing…but I wouldn’t let him buy anything because we are trying to clear clutter out of our house. He was very disappointed.
Then, when we needed party favors, we realized we could get them at PCCR! We knew just what to get. For only $1 each, we could give every guest a very special gift that any seven-year-old would be thrilled and honored to receive:
It never occurred to me before I saw the huge display at PCCR, but there must be tons of used trophies rattling around this planet. I mean, if a person is really good at something, she earns a trophy or twelve every year for a long while before reaching the level of achievement at which the trophies become so valuable and coveted that she’ll keep them forever or sell them for thousands of dollars. People who eventually earn an Oscar or professional sports trophies probably don’t keep the less-important trophies they earned earlier in life–at least, not all of them. So what happens to all those trophies?
Well, several dozen of them are in the PCCR store, and all but the biggest fanciest ones cost just $1! Nicholas chose one for each of his guests, plus a slightly larger and fancier one for himself as the birthday boy. We cleaned them with a soapy rag and polished them with a dry rag. Some still had metal plates on them with the name of the original recipient; we removed these and removed remaining adhesive with Goo Gone.
We considered making new labels for the trophies–Excellence in Party Attending or something like that–but decided that would be less impressive and less fun than giving the guests the opportunity to pretend they’d been honored for whatever they like! A trophy makes a great conversation piece, especially if you make up a new story about how you won it every time somebody asks! (Besides, not making new labels left us more time for making frosting and lemonade and such.)
It was a successful, low-budget, at-home party. The kids played card games, drew pictures, feasted on homemade cake and lemonade plus store-bought ice cream, and spent some time running around screaming. Nobody complained about not being at Chuck E. Cheese. And everyone went home with a trophy! It worked for me!
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