Friday, October 24, 2008

The Costume as Everyday Attire

Here is my absolutely favorite thing about kids: Sometimes, they enter a room nonchallantly, looking at everybody like "Hey, what's up?" They hang up their coat, take a seat. Everything's totally normal. Except for the fact that they're dressed like Darth Vader. Or Snow White. Or Buzz Lightyear.

The costume as everyday attire...It's the stuff childhood is made of.

The other day, J.J. wore his Captain America costume everywhere. To a Mexican restaurant for lunch with his aunts. To his cousins' football games. To a family party. Every once in a while, he'd pretend to hold a shield and yell, "Captain America. Save the Day!" But other than that, it was business as usual: coloring, eating chips, throwing fits from time to time. Normal. Only in costume.

Things are probably the same for the real Captain America--ordinary, at least on a personal level. I mean, what are the chances that both his personal and professional lives would be absolutely riveting. For most people, neither is even the least bit interesting. That's what makes it so great! Interesting isn't good, especially at home. If someone says, "The past couple weeks have been...interesting," you're like, "Oh, Christ. What happened?"

So, if Captain America really is in the business of saving the day, odds are, he spends his weekends planting crysanthemums or something. Which beats the alternative of, say, searching for his long-lost father in the ghettos of Hong Kong while dealing with annoying death traps set by his evil clone.

Halloween is basically the same thing, with kids going about their business in costume, all on the same day. This year, our school did this a little early with trunk-or-treat. On Friday, 200 kids trick-or-treated at our car, so I got the opportunity to see them as their characters. I know a lot of them but eventually figured out that saying hi by name disappointed them. They wanted to be their characters.

Richie was this way. He dressed as Anakin Skywalker--the good years. I gave him a sticker, which meant we'd paid for him to trick-or-treat. He looked at it like, What galaxy far far away, long long ago has stickers, of all things? "Do I have to wear this?" he asked.

A while later, he ran into Darth Vader. Basically, this would be like bumping into yourself after you'd already gone over to the dark side--while, in the present, you're still undergoing Jedi training! Um...Awkward.

To make matters worse, Darth Vader was in second grade and challenged Richie to a lightsaber battle. As their swords clashed, Richie had that look on his face we all get when we know that, logistically, we're going to lose a battle but are praying to everliving God it doesn't happen. At least not immediately.

Then, the look changed. He stuck out his chest and allowed that plastic lightsaber to stab him straight in the heart. Then, he staggered hilariously and gasped, "I'm dead! I'm deaaaaaad!" Darth Vader got a big kick out of that. Well played, Anakin, well played.

After their battle, Anakin and Darth sat down and drank hot chocolate with marshmallows floating on top.

Costumes let kids be who they want to be--only in an everyday way. Superheroes may save the day while wearing their underpants outside their clothes, but for dinner, they eat their hotdogs with ketchup like everybody else. Princesses live in a turret and wear satin gowns as everyday attire, but at the end of the night, they climb onto their mom and dads' laps and fall asleep. Even junior high kids, dressed in hoodies, frightening masks and sheer awkwardness, gather with their friends to trade candy after an evening of being scary.

No wonder Halloween has become one of the biggest holidays in our country. An exciting career (whether in the field of saving or destroying the world.) A blessedly boring homelife. Isn't that the American Dream? And you get a bag full of candy, to boot. Happy Halloween, everybody!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Halloween! I was asking JJ what Richie was going to be and he said Starwars. I asked what mommy was going to be, knowing you had the witches hat, I guessed s witch? He said, "no, mommy's not a witch, she's going to be a princess."

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love when JOe-Joe wears his French cowboy boots to school! i'm sure the teachers just roll their eyes an crack up! LOVE it!

10:09 AM  

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