When I was younger we had to do a project in school. I was very excited about it, because once my teacher told me what the project was going to be, I immediately knew what I was going to do! I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want anyone to take my idea! (Something I continue to do to this day for some reason.) Anyway….we had to create a poster demonstrating Fire Prevention…it was Fire Prevention week as I remember. The Fire Marshall and Smokey The Bear were going to come to our school and judge the posters for the best one! I was so excited. I loved Smokey The Bear. I had a hat just like this one when I was in school…and I just loved him so much.
I ran home to put my poster together and I kept it all very secret. I worked quietly on it in my room upstairs. The shag carpet burning my knees as I carefully placed each piece of magic on the poster board. It was a white poster board. So anything that showed up on it would be bright and stark. I loved the white space…so much room to create with.
I brought my poster to school the day the judging was supposed to take place. I was nervous. I couldn’t focus on anything until I knew for sure Smokey had seen my poster. I just knew he was going to love it. And the Fire Marshall was particularly handsome, which didn’t seem unusual to me. I didn’t know all the other boys didn’t care about such things. But I just knew I was going to impress him, too.
We went to the gymnasium where all of the posters where hanging around the walls of the gym. We all walked around the gym and admired each other’s work. I already knew mine was going to win so all of this was just a formality you see. But I walked around smugly and so confident of my work. I even remember passing my poster thinking it was so awesome and brilliant. And it was…and so was I for thinking of it. Such a smart little boy I was. Until…
The Fire Marshall and Smokey The Bear walked into the gym and walked around looking at all the posters. My heart raced. Would he love it as much as I’d hoped he would?? Would he break into applause? How would Smokey show how much he loved me and my poster? A hug? A handshake? I was ok with all of the options!
They walked up to my poster and were whispering to each other. This was it. It was a quiet conversation confirming the obvious. The Fire Marshall took my poster from the wall. He rolled it up and handed it to the lady who was walking around with the entourage. They walked around the room to look at the other posters and I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest! This was EVEN BETTER THAN I HAD HOPED! They loved it so much they had to take it on stage with them to show everyone! Finally…my genius would be rewarded!
They handed the rolled up poster to my teacher. She looked over at me and smiled. I grinned back at her on the edge of my seat. They were going to ask me to come up so I had to get ready to excuse myself down the aisle of losers sitting beside me. Poor kids. They didn’t know what was about to happen.
As I stood up and walked toward my teacher, she leaned down and said she was sorry. My poster had been disqualified. What the hell is disqualified? What did that mean? Did that mean it was so extraordinary that it had this special term I had never heard of? Unfortunately, it did not.
Needless to say I didn’t win any awards that day. I didn’t win anything but confusion and heartbreak. I was devastated. But I loved my poster and remembered what I had done for many years after.
One day, about 6 months ago I was reminded of that experience when I was on a shopping app on my iPad. It literally made me gasp. Did they know? Was this a sign of some type from the universe? What in gay hell had just happened?? There it was. A piece of artwork that looked so similar to my childhood poster that the same body sensations I’d had so long ago were suddenly present all over again. Smokey had came to my mind all over again.
The poster I made was made with matches that spelled out “DON’T PLAY WITH MATCHES!”
This was the poster I saw (and immediately ordered online!)
The art was done by an artist and here’s her statement about creating it:
Artist Dánica Conneely explains her process in crafting this work of art. “I laid each individual piece down with tweezers. It took me all night. I should have lit it on fire after I was done.” This print stems from a photograph of the innovative work that will inspire you to think different and create boldly.
I don’t have a picture of the poster I did. But I never forgot it. And now that I’ve got this print, which will be hanging in my office very shortly, I don’t ever have to. I love what the artist says that it will hopefully inspire you to think differently and create boldly. Which, even as a child, I was already doing. Thank you Smokey!
P.S. I think it’s funny that I also got a link sent to me in an email several years ago if I remember correctly. The link took me to this picture…which I still remember laughing my ass off….it still makes me!