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Shannon Bardwell: Plaster of Paris


Shannon Bardwell



As a little kid, Vacation Bible School was a highlight of summer. What could be cooler than making crafts, playing games; drinking grape Kool-Aid and eating sugar cookies with a hole in the middle held by a single finger? 


Munchkins sat on the floor in what had been transformed into a jungle, or a village, or Noah''s Ark and listened to Bible stories. Stories were illustrated by sticking characters onto a board covered with flannel. "Flannel graph," they called it.  


Wee ones memorized Bible verses to win plastic pinwheels or refrigerator magnets or a bookmark. Whenever a Bible verse pops in my head, it most often pops in the King James Version. I couldn''t read the KJV now if my life depended on it. Neither can I memorize; while I got bigger, my memory bank got smaller. 


At VBS tiny Christian soldiers lined up outside the church. They held banners and flags and sang marching songs. It was exciting to be chosen to carry the American flag or the Christian flag or the Bible. We said a pledge to each one. I can''t remember the last time I said a pledge unless it was to pledge money to a charity.  


Sam remembers VBS at Wesley Methodist, where he rode his bike to church and made lanyards, potholders and wore red sashes.  


I remember making bracelets with little colored plastic beads and tying nails together for cross necklaces. Sam and I both remember pressing our hands into plaster of Paris. My friend Sandra fashioned a cast around her arm as quick as lightening. It was as hard as a rock in a matter of minutes. A helper escorted Sandra outside and banged her arm on the sidewalk to free it from her self-made cast. 


While a teenager, we got to go on trips and have VBS with kids who probably wouldn''t get to have VBS unless someone like us came. I learned young that not everyone lived like me.  


One place we stayed had razor wire on the fence, and we slept on the floor on our beach mattresses. My mattress had a slow leak ''cause it didn''t last the week. I remember a friend complaining about the kids not having any manners. I suspected these kids didn''t learn manners in crack houses. 


Shaeffer''s Chapel had family VBS this month, and that''s really cool ''cause sometimes grown-ups get to color and make crafts. We hear Bible stories and try to memorize a single Bible verse. We can sit on the floor, if we can still sit on the floor and get up again.  


We sing and dance and act like kids. We drink grape Kool-Aid and wear sugar cookies on our fingers. Sometimes we stick our hands in plaster of Paris, and how often do you get to do that anymore? 


To find a Vacation Bible School near you, check out


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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