The Brookies Build a Business
By Molly Donovan
On rainy days, we get crafty. It had been raining all weekend, from the time I squelched off the bus on Friday all the way through gloomy Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t even a fun or scary rain; there was no lightning or thunder to make my mom jump, and the power didn’t even go out, so I couldn’t creep out my brother Jack with scary stories. We’d done a lot of crafts. I’d sewed a sleeping bag for my favorite doll, Erica, so we could go camping together this summer; we’d made tiny pots out of clay for mom to put her rings and stuff in; and Jack and I had done portraits of each other, sitting across from one another at the dining room table and making a general mess. Mine looked exactly like Jack, we all (except Jack) agreed. Jack’s made me look like Miss Piggy with a ponytail.
By the time Sunday rolled around, we were driving Mom and Dad crazy.
“You two are driving me crazy,” Mom confirmed, pulling her glasses down so her nose got all pinched.
“There’s nothing to do!” Jack wailed.
“Read a book,” Dad said reasonably.
“I’ve read them all,” he said, not quite as reasonably, throwing up his hands.
“Have a snack,” Mom suggested.
“Not hungry,” I sighed.
“This sounds serious,” Mom said seriously.
“I wish the stupid rain would stupid go away!” said Jack.
“Jack, what did we tell you about saying ‘stupid?’” said Dad. “And have you tried singing the song Rain Rain, Go Away?” He chuckled to himself, in the way that dads do sometimes.
We all looked at him for a minute then, and even Mom rolled her eyes.
“Alright,” she said, and she snapped her computer shut. “This calls for…” she looked at us mysteriously. I felt myself straighten up.
“What does it call for, Mom?” said Jack.
“This calls for the case,” she said.
“Yes!” we shrieked.
The case was something mom had concocted a long time ago, back on the first truly boring rainy day I can remember. It was something special she hid in her closet, and she filled it from time to time with the most exciting stuff for us to get crafty with. We weren’t allowed to play with it without her, and the things we made with it were always way better than what we made by ourselves. Last time the case came out, we spread plaster strips on our faces and made masks that we ended up wearing on Halloween.
She vanished into her room to go get the case, and Dad shook his head and went back to scrolling through the paper on his iPad. Jack started jumping up and down.
Mom came back with her case, which was actually the case she once used to carry around lab supplies for classes in college. Mom studied something called mechanical engineering, which might not sound very cool now but I promise it is--when she did it way back in the 90s, she was one of only three girls in the whole department. She doesn’t really use the case anymore so much at her job, because now she’s the boss and spends more time on the computer and the phone and making spreadsheets, and less time actually making stuff with her hands. But she kept the case, because she says she likes to remember where she started. Sometimes when she brings it out she gets this faraway look in her eyes, and she smiles and strokes the old worn leather like it’s really fragile, even though it’s just kind of old and dirty and torn. When she does that Jack and I have permission to roll our eyes at her and tell her to snap out of it.
Mom says she was a free spirit before she was a real-life mechanical engineer. She spent the summer after she graduated traveling with my Auntie Karen and my Auntie Nadia (the two other girl engineers!), and it was on her trip that she met my dad. Dad was studying art and drawing caricatures of tourists to make money on the side. Mom noticed his funny drawings in a big open square where she was eating lunch, and she gave him ten dollars to make one of her. Dad drew her caricature and always says it was the worst one he ever did--he says she was too pretty to make ridiculous. When he says that, Mom rolls her eyes and smiles at the same time. He made her laugh while he was drawing and made her angry when she saw the final picture--she rattled off a list of features he could have teased with his marker--and he interrupted all her complaining to ask her to dinner. They still have the caricature--it’s framed and hangs in their bedroom, right next to pictures of Jack and me.
Dad is still an artist, and he works from his studio above our garage. He mostly paints during the day while Jack and I are at school, then when we get home he mostly plays with us and checks our homework and makes dinner for us and stuff. He watches us while Mom is working at the latest company she’s started. All Mom’s companies have different names, but they all make different kinds of gadgets and gizmos. I’ve heard other grown-ups call Mom a serial entrepreneur, which just means she thinks up lots of ideas and makes them into companies, then sells them to other people and thinks up new ideas and does it all over again. It confused me when people called her that until Dad explained it to me. Mom doesn’t even really like cereal.
We were quiet as Mom put the case on the table and started to unbuckle it slowly; even Jack hushed up. We both peered in to see what new stuff she had put in there.
There were dozens of little baggies full of beautiful, sparkly beads, and spools and spools of all types of wire: clear, silver, gold, green.
“I used these wires to make a radio in college,” she said. “What else do you think we could make with them?”
“A spaceship!” volunteered Jack. That’s usually his answer for everything.
“I don’t know,” I said. “We haven’t gotten to electricity yet in science class. What do you think we could make, Mom?”
“We don’t need to use them to turn something on or off,” Mom said. “Why don’t we use them to make something else, like...jewelry?”
“Oooh!” I said, just as Jack was saying, “oh, man!”
“What?” Mom said, turning to Jack.
“That’s girl stuff,” he said, wrinkling his nose. “I wanna go play pirates.”
“Excuse me, Jack Morales-Burch,” she said, crossing her arms. “Do you think attention to detail is girl stuff?”
“Preach, lady,” said Dad without looking up from the paper. Dad doesn’t believe in “girl stuff” or “boy stuff;” he just believes in “people stuff.”
“I dunno, Mom,” Jack whined.
“I’m excited,” I said. “My friend Mohini at summer camp used to make her own jewelry all the time, and it was really pretty. Besides, it’s Rory’s birthday on Friday, so maybe I’ll make something to give her at our sleepover.”
My best friends and I have sleepovers at my friend Maya’s house almost every week. I was getting anxious to see them, because this week we couldn’t--Maya’s parents were at a wedding, and her grandma was staying with them. From all the pictures she was sending us, it looked like she and her grandma were spending the weekend making a lot of enchiladas, which was fun, but not exactly the same as a sleepover.
“That’s a great idea,” Mom said.
“I don’t wanna make jewelry,” Jack said again. “I’m gonna do surgery on Pig.”
Jack’s stuffed pig had been the object of many an experiment; Jack had tie-dyed him, bedazzled him, and, on one particularly misguided occasion, attached wings to his back to try to make him fly. Now he was a brownish grey color and had a permanently weary look about his black button eyes. His tail had completely lost its curl.
Jack ran up to get Pig. Mom and I looked at each other and shook our heads.
“You could make her a pair of earrings,” Mom said, holding up a skinny curved wire.
“Nah,” I shook my head. “She’s not allowed to get her ears pierced until she’s 12.”
“Ah,” said Mom.
“I’ll do a bracelet,” I said. “Where should I start?”
“Well,” Mom said, “it depends on what you want to do. You could take one of these long metal bars, see?” She held up a skinny gold rectangle. “And you could make a design with the beads on it.”
“They’re so small, though,” I said.
“Well, that’s why we have these tools.” Mom handed me a tiny pair of tweezers.
I settled in, then, spreading out the beads and hunching my shoulders. I focused on the pattern I was making on the gold bar, using Rory’s favorite colors--blue and green--to glue on a sequence of spirals that left just enough of the gold showing so it glinted when the light hit it. At the head of the table, Jack was noisily cutting into Pig with a pair of scissors, and Mom was threading a needle for him to use to sew Pig back up.
It was fun, gluing on the beads. “You have a steady hand,” Mom said approvingly. She looked over at Jack, who was sewing up poor Pig in big, jagged jabs, and sighed. Emboldened by her praise, I hunched even closer and started to create an “R” for “Rory” out of the tail end of one of the spirals.
“Wow,” Dad said, coming up behind me. “That’s beautiful, honey.”
I sat back and surveyed my work. “It’s coming together.” I started stringing beads, alternating in blue and green, onto the wire, putting the gold bar in the middle. The finished bracelet really was pretty--even Jack had abandoned his surgery and come over to stand behind my shoulder and watch me finish.
“That’s good,” he said. “It looks like a real bracelet.”
“It is a real bracelet, Jack,” I rolled my eyes.
“I wish I’d made one,” Jack said.
“You can next time,” I said, and I thought that was really nice, because he was so whiny before. “I hope Rory likes it,” I said, looking at Mom anxiously.
“Of course she will,” Mom said, giving me a squeeze.
“I can’t wait to show the others!” I said happily, settling into my seat and thinking about how nice it feels to have a surprise for your friend.
“Oh look!” said Jack, pointing out the window. “The sun’s coming out."
© Willowbrook Girls Inc 2016
© ET Monjarez Illustrations 2016