Why I Love to Laminate

This afternoon provided a fine opportunity for me to open up my new laminator. I have been without a laminator for several months; this is personal laminator number three. The first one was a supermarket special– it met its end when I forgot to open the catch flap. The second one, purchased on eBay, came with a special carry box and 100 laminating pouches, much to my delight. It served well, but the time came when I chose to see how it would do with laminating a piece of child artwork with extra paper glued on. It did not do well – turns out the warning sign on the laminator is very serious and flatness is a necessity. This third one is the same make as the second one but I am determined to treat it with the utmost respect, mostly because I know that if I were to purchase a fourth laminator, my husband would be most distraught. In an ideal world, I would own an industrial-strength laminator that would not use pouches, that could handle wider paper, and that could laminate paper stuck to paper, but even I know that that would be carrying a peculiar fondness a bit too far.
The results of today’s session were: two gymnastics achievement certificates, one playground patrol commendation, one participation in sports day award, one self-portrait by our four-year old daughter, a map of the world drawn by our seven-year old son, and a “Deadly Countdown to Extinction” bookmark by same son. It gave me a feeling of enormous well-being to see each item in its pouch sucked slowly into the machine, coming out, equally slowly, in shiny hard plastic on the other side. I was very pleased to put the new certificates next to previously laminated certificates, and admired the new state of the self-portrait and map in their places of honour on the mantelpiece. Our son was quite happy that his bookmark is now more durable and both children asked for their maps of Astrosaur outer space to be laminated later on. My interest in lamination began in graduate school for speech pathology. One of our classes required us to produce a set of phonetics cards that would account for all the sounds necessary for English. I was able to laminate my cards on an industrial laminator at one of the schools I was doing a placement at, and found the change from flimsy index cards with pictures glued on to durable resources for practicing speech sounds extremely appealing. I worked for over a year as a speech therapist in a school for children with special needs in Brooklyn, NY, and while there I came to love lamination even more as it was a key element of Picture Exchange Communication Symbols (PECS). PECS are basically small black and white drawings of important objects, such as spoons or books, that are then laminated, cut out, and velcroed so that they can be placed in books, on communication strips, or handed to a communication partner. One of the boys I worked with, M., who had autism, made particularly astounding progress with PECS using his communication book. M. was able to interact using PECS in a way that was not possible for him using spoken language. I looked forward to my sessions with M. and spent a good deal of time making his communication book as effective as possible, a process that involved considerable lamination.
After that, I did not laminate for several years. But when our son, S., was 3 ½, he was diagnosed with high-functioning autism (a diagnosis that was then revised to Asperger’s syndrome when he was 5) and I knew lamination would soon be necessary. We were lucky—S. has come so far that most people he meets are not aware of his diagnosis. But we did use laminated picture symbols with him, primarily for scheduling. The sound of ripping Velcro was associated with the morning and evening routine for at least a year. Then the children began to get certificates. S. got several Superstar awards—a great honour at his school—and N., our daughter, began to get gymnastics awards. All of these seemed worthy of lamination. I have also laminated a postcard, sent to me by my mom, of the church in Vermont where my husband and I got married with a rainbow in the background. It sits on the shelf in our kitchen.My childhood, until the age of about 12, was chaotic. My parents divorced when I was four, and after that, life was quite topsy-turvy for several years. I went to a new school every year from kindergarten until fourth grade, and two schools in one year (second grade). There are large chunks of memory that don’t hang together as they should, and there are some memories that stand completely by themselves. I believe that this explains my love of lamination. There is a way in which lamination is about permanence. Granted, it is not very eco-friendly. As we all know, plastic does not biograde. For the planet, lamination is not good. But it is like preparing a time-capsule. When my daughter grows up, she can give her own child the self-portrait she made when she was four, and can show off her gymnastics certificates. The irony, of course, is that she will probably not need laminated proof of her history. She will know her history and be able to tell it in one cohesive story. But lamination is also good for recognition. I know a woman whose mom framed a picture this woman had drawn of herself as a dancer at age 5. The woman in question went on to study dance at college. Lamination is similar—it says, “What you have done is important.” I want my children to know, in no uncertain terms, that I consider their achievements and their creations remarkable and valuable.
Here’s hoping my current laminator lasts a long time.
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