Last week I drove from Atlanta to Chicagoland to visit my mom. The visit was spurred on by my mom’s desire to put her house up for sale. This is not my childhood home. We moved there when I was in high school so consequently I really only lived there for about threeish year. She put her house up for sale a few years ago, but for various reasons, moving was a non-starter. We had gone through a lot of my old stuff previously but it was clear now that I needed to get serious and be ready to purge and say goodbye.
I opened boxes that had been taped since we moved. I was engulfed in some serious time warps. There were some casualties and calamities, the most notable being The Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
In 7th grade, I had to do an academic fair project. We were not limited to science. We could also chose topics from social studies or math. I was fascinated with photos of intricate models of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World from my Childcraft Encyclopedia set. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon being my favorite.
(While prepping to write this entry, I went searching for the inspiration image of the Hanging Gardens that’s posted above. I did not realize that the photographs had nothing originally to do with Childcraft but were of actually models originally made for a Viewmaster reel! No wonder they looked so awesome!)
Luckily for me, the Seven Wonders were a suggestion on the fair topics list! I had to write a paper about the Wonders and I also had to create a visual display for the fair. photocopying some images from library books to slap on the three-sided board was not going to cut it. I had to create my own model of the Hanging Gardens. The task was set and the gauntlet of parental assistance was thrown.
My Dad ended up being the engineer of the project, suggesting that we build the Hanging Gardens out of foam core for both durability and lightness. He had previously helped me build a medieval castle out of sugar cubes and glue which proved to be nearly impossible for a wee Gretchen to get to school so transportability was key. I do remember a couple of simultaneously fun yet Dad maddening Sunday afternoons during which we built the Gardens. It turned out that some Maize latex paint that was leftover from painting some room in our house was perfect for golden glow the Hanging Gardens needed. My Mom was on the decorating committee, which made perfect sense since she was/is the green thumb of our family. We used silk flowers and leaves to make trees and plants. We also made small trailing strands of flowers to give the Gardens that signature “hanging” look. There were even a few real cactus plants on the top floor — for authenticity.
I ended up getting a 2nd place prize for my project which both I and my parents took to be a gyp. I received a first the next year in 8th grade when my project was “The Science of Developing and Printing Black & White Film”. Once again, I was aided by Dad, as he happened to have everything non-perishable required collecting dust in a dark corner of the basement.
As much as I love the Hanging Gardens model, it has lost some of its flora and gained a lovely patina of dirt and dust. I took off the remaining trailing garlands and have them saved to use as trim on a hat or something. Or maybe just as a more space efficient reminder.
My fascination with the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World never really ended. I’ve seen fragments of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus in the British Museum and the scavenged columns from the Temple of Artemis installed in the Hagia Sofia. I have not yet managed to see the Great Pyramid at Giza, which is the only wonder still standing — but I will! After I unpack more boxes, anyway.
In closing, here are a couple of mythological giantesses attacking the ancient structure.