Tag Archives: costumes

The Umbrella Story


What super power would you have? Why, invisibility, of course! Sure it would be nice to fly, or shoot lasers out of my eyes, but to be invisible . . . now that would be really cool.

umbrella boy

One spring afternoon in Music class, we were learning a song about the rain. On the handout there was a drawing of a boy walking through the rain with an umbrella. As I often did, I doodled on the drawing, beginning with shading his rain boots. Absent-mindedly, I continued embellishing the drawing until I came up with an amazing idea. Imagine an umbrella with curtain-like sides, so you could be completely hidden from view while using it! I could picture myself taking a walk through the park, strolling along in my own private room while passersby were completely uninterested in looking at me.

That afternoon I leapt off the school bus and ran to the house, eager to build the prototype. In the mudroom, I located the big Mary Poppins-style umbrella, grabbed a roll of duct tape and the rag box – which had some old bed sheets in it. I brought all the supplies out into the yard and painstakingly taped the mis-matched, paint-spattered sheets around the umbrella. I taped each sheet together to ensure that there would be no gaps through which I could be seen. My friend Chrissy came over to see what I was up to, determined I was nuts, and went home to watch Saved By the Bell.

I wasn’t the only one with this idea.

About an hour later, my umbrella creation was ready for a test run. I climbed under the sheets and hoisted the heavy contraption up off the ground. I’d failed to consider how I was going to navigate under this thing. After a few cautious steps around the yard, it was determined that an adjustment was needed. A section of sheet was removed and replaced with an opened-up black trash bag. The bag was transparent enough for me to see through, but not so transparent that anyone would be able to see me inside it. Brilliant! By then, it was time for dinner, so I closed the umbrella-contraption and tossed it into the mudroom, feeling accomplished.

A few weeks later, Joanna was visiting for the weekend. As usual, we spent much of the time lying around complaining about how incredibly bored we were. Then I remembered the umbrella. We decided to take it out for a walk around the park. It was big enough for the two of us to walk side-by-side in it, but it was awkward trying to coordinate our pace and not tread on the sheets which billowed around us. We made it across the parking lot to a bench near the tennis courts, where we sat down, still inside the umbrella.

Two teenage boys had just finished up a tennis game. They had probably seen us approaching the bench, like an enormous drunken jellyfish. They exited the tennis court and began walking towards us, their curiosity piqued. Joanna elbowed me in the ribs. “They’re coming over here!” she gasped, “let’s get out of here!”  I grabbed her arm, “No! Sit here – let’s see what happens!” For some reason, I didn’t expect them to actually come over to us. But they did. One of them tapped the top of the umbrella with his tennis racket. “Hello? What is this?” he laughed. We sat, paralyzed with a mix of excitement and fear. The other boy pulled back one of the sheets and peeked in. “There’s a couple of chicks in there!” he exclaimed. The other pushed him aside to have a look. “Naw, they’re just kids.”

As soon as they turned and began walking away, we leaped up from the bench and began running back to the house as hard as we could. If walking in a coordinated fashion had been difficult, running was proving to be impossible. The heavy umbrella wobbled uncontrollably in our hands. Joanna tripped on one of the sheets, ripping it from the umbrella as she fell. I kept running, still holding onto the umbrella as the remaining sheets flowed out behind me like a horse’s tail. Joanna kicked her legs free of the sheet that had tripped her and desperately continued running. Breathless, we reached the safety of the yard, where we collapsed into a screaming, laughing heap of sheets and mangled umbrella.

So much for that invisibility cloak.

H-A-double-L-O, W-double-E-N, spells Halloween!


Image
Do i look sufficiently excited?

Halloween has never been a favorite day of mine. As a little kid I was unsettled by the fake tombstones and cobwebbed skeletons that adorned my normally pleasant-looking neighborhood. Even now, I don’t understand people’s fascination with death and gore, like the current zombie craze that affects some of my coworkers. I have lived through experiences where I felt like a zombie. Remembering my own face colored in various shades of bruise, blood leaking from my nostrils, or the corners of my mouth after surgery, and remembering just how awful it felt, both mentally and physically… I just don’t understand the appeal of pretending to be undead.

Masks are also unsettling. The frozen expression, even if it is a jolly one, hides the real emotions and intentions of the person wearing it. Even characters at theme parks have given me an uneasy feeling and I never rushed to be photographed with them. Who knew what kind of creep was lurking under that cheesy grin and oversized head?

Surgeons wear masks.  The second surgery I ever had in my life was on October 30th, 1980. I was only 4 months old at the time so it is unlikely that I consciously remember any of it, but I wonder sometimes if my aversion to Halloween comes from being in the hospital over that time. Undoubtedly the children’s ward was decorated for the occasion.  Or maybe my aversion comes from the simple fact that every time I saw people with their faces covered by surgical masks, I was having an unhappy experience.

When I was really young, I enjoyed dressing up like a princess or a ballerina (which sadly I can’t seem to find pictures of!).  In the snapshot above, I’m wearing a homemade scarecrow costume. (Thanks, Mom!) Not once did I want to dress up as something frightening.

As I’ve mentioned before, my technique for surviving at school was to blend in as much as possible.  While Halloween could have been a really fun time for me to experiment with crazy costumes or even disguise myself completely, I almost never did this.  By 4th grade, Mom had apparently grown tired of making homemade costumes and instead bought me a cheap clown costume.  It was a hideous one-piece polyester affair, with a wire hoop in the seam between the pants and the shirt which made it look like I had huge hips.  As I was just entering puberty and beginning to feel even more self conscious about my body, this was not the greatest choice.  All day I bumped those awkward hips on chairs, desks, fellow students – you name it.  By the time I boarded the bus home (where I had to turn sideways to make it down the aisle), I was ready to burn that stupid costume and never dress up again.

As often happens in childhood, the thing you hated and passionately swore you would never do again is soon forgotten about. The next year, I dressed as a witch, complete with a long black wig, green face paint and a fake nose.  It was the first costume that really disguised my true identity and let me blend in with the other kids.

In 6th grade, my middle school put on a Halloween dance. Everyone was to go in costume. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t be caught dead going to a school dance, where I envisioned myself sitting alone on the sidelines as everyone else had the time of their lives. However, remembering the anonymity of last year’s witch ensemble, I decided to check it out. I dressed as a fortune teller in a dark dress with a sparkly shawl and the trusty black wig. I wore false eyelashes and bold lipstick. At the dance I hung out with my little group of friends but as I walked among the other students, I held my head high and once again felt liberated from my usual bumbling, apologetic self. Some kids even peered at me and wondered who I was. “I sit behind you in algebra!” I said to one girl, who had apparently been unaware of my existence until that very moment. After the dance (at which there was little to no actual dancing), I was high on adrenaline from having just accomplished a social milestone- my first school dance- without having felt ostracized or awkward or even a little bit self conscious. The power of a costume!

Fortunately as I’ve grown up, I have learned to be much more comfortable in my own skin, helped by little bits of “costume” that have been added along the way, like all the surgeries that have reshaped my face, the dental work and artistry that created my smile and the makeup I wear to accentuate my eyes. Most everyone has some means of improving their natural looks to make themselves presentable.

I’m still not a big fan of Halloween, though!