November 4, 2009

Trick or Treat

My son has an active imagination. He talks to the characters from his TV shows, even when the TV is off. He has introduced himself to strangers as "Caillou" more than once and at 4, he can spell his name and Dora's name. So, when he said he wanted to be Snow White for Halloween, I came close to saying yes and getting him the costume from Target, but, children are cruel and pictures last forever, especially when I post them on Facebook, which I would, so I decided to suggest a different costume. He decided to be a witch. I got him a cape, a witch hat, a broom and a wand. He made me open the want in Target before we checked out. It was silver with a pink bow and silver star. By the time we got home, he was wearing the cape and the hat and riding the broom. He wore this outfit for 2 weeks leading up to Halloween. He would "fly" around the house telling us and his imaginary audience that we would never break his spells. By the time Halloween Day arrived, I had to tape the star to the end of the wand and the broom was missing all of its bristles.

Still, I figured he would really get into this dressing up for candy deal. He even insisted on using a basket to collect his candy instead of a bag. By the time we left the front gate, I was holding his cape and two blocks later, I was carrying the hat and the basket, too. I know, shocking, right? This is a child who routinely acts out Snow White and the Seven Dwarves when it is on. It is his own private toddler-appropriate Rocky Horror Picture Show, replete with props collected from around the house – a plastic goblet, an apple, a plastic dagger. It made me wonder if he was self-conscious about being dressed up or if, because everyone else was also dressed up, it lost its appeal. And with that thought, I was transported back to 4th grade. If this was a movie, you'd hear a whooshing sound.

As a child, as I believe I have established in earlier posts, I was not exactly popular. I was pudgy, wore glasses, corrective shoes and had braces. Oh, and did I mention I was pathologically shy and self-conscious? School was torturous. I spent most of my time trying to get out of going to school and once I was there, I spent all my time trying to figure out how to get back home. In fourth grade, I made a friend named Lorna. Lorna was beautiful – long hair, slender, tiny little features and she was nice. While the other kids ignored me (thankfully, because the attention they gave was much worse) Lorna would sit and talk with me. In fact, it was with Lorna that I had my first non-mom ESP experience. Not to divert too much here, but my mother always said I had ESP because I knew what she was going to say before she said it and we often dreamed the same dream. Lorna was the first person who was not my mother that this happened with. She told me her brother had to have surgery and before she said why, I knew already. It happened often to me as a child, but not so much anymore.

Anyway, Lorna invited me to her house for a Halloween party. It may be that it was a Halloween/Birthday party, but the details are fuzzy. You see, when someone invites you to a Halloween party, wouldn't you think it was a costume party? I mean, that's a natural assumption, especially when you are 9. So when Mom dropped me off at the party, I was wearing a black leotard, black tights, red shorts, suspenders, a tail, mouse ears and I had whiskers drawn on my face. I think I also had on white gloves. Clever, huh? If you're wondering, yes this was the same year as the Wonder Woman bathing suit incident. What can I say, I was socially retarded.

Apparently, none of the other 9 year old girls from our class got the memo about costumes. And thus, I was the only child not in regular play clothes. I was the only child wearing black ballet slippers. I was the only child masquerading as a mouse. I shrugged it off, pretended it was totally normal for me to be wearing this and that it was just my Saturday attire. I went into the bathroom and removed the tail and the suspenders and the ears. Mom was already gone so I could not feign an illness. I guess I could have, but it didn't seem right to leave the one party I was invited to. Once all the other girls were there, we went up to Lorna's room to hang out. She opened her presents. I gave her a placemat that you could decorate with your name and stuff. And then we all sat around talking acting naturally, ignoring the fact that one us us had mouse whiskers painted on her face.

After a few hundred days of that torture, we went downstairs where we bobbed for apples. I prayed that I would drown in the bucket and end my misery. Instead, my mouse nose smeared all over my face making me look more like a roughed up mime that Mickey Mouse. I don't remember how the party ended. I do remember that Lorna and I were not friends after that. In my memory, she moved away. But I am not sure that is accurate.

I want to find the right balance with Max. I want him to be himself and talk to Dopey and Sneezy as if they were in the room. I want him to feel free to walk to the beat of his own drummer, but there is the part of me that wants to shield him from the pain of growing up, too. I know that in reality, I can't so that and, if I am totally honest, I don't want to do that. I am who I am today because of the events in my past. I love who I am today. I can say that honestly. Sure, it took 12 years of therapy and about 70,000 12-step meetings, but I can say it. Dammit.

My mother loved me. I know that to the very core of my being. She knew I was different. She knew I didn't fit in. But she sent me out into the world and loved me anyway. I wish I could call her and tell her about Max. But I know what she would tell me, "just love him…that is your job." And I do.


Allison Feaheny said...

Thanks for sharing your tale; it brought small tears to my eyes. Hope Max had a great Halloween, with or without wearing a costume.

Laura Ferry-Jimenez said...

my dad used to always say something like, "what are we gonna do with you?!" and then say, "I guess we'll keep ya and love you."

that's all we can do - keep loving our kids and hope for the best. it's great but sucks, too. :)

Laura Ferry-Jimenez said...

ps: sucks because we can't keep them in a safe cocoon. that's what I meant!

cathleen said...

What is it about NOLA and my NOLA peeps that get under my skin. We are a dramatic, unique lot and we recognise one another in a crowd. Even over here in "tryin' to keep it weird" Austin, you can spot us a mile away. I'm afraid my girl has it too; and in NOLA she probably wouldn't stand out so much. So Ginna, her Daddy and I get to come home to our little loving home where we can be "snow white" in private. All we want.

Thanks for writing Claire.