You know the games you can play with your family - the brown-eyed group and the blue eyes; those who like ketchup on KD and those who know it is disgusting? We found another distinction this weekend: those who love to dress up in costumes and those who don't.
I am firmly in the former camp while Dave is in the latter.
A few weeks ago, I took the kids on the Uptown Waterloo Treasure Hunt. One of our stops was Queen of Hearts costume store. They asked the kids in passing if any of them were interested in being a costumed character in the Santa Claus Parade. Two said no. J. Shakespeare said Heck yeah.
I needed to remember to register him by the 15th - and remembered, on the 15th, to do so. We needed to go into the store to sign up for and try on a costume to be one of the - and I kid you not - Fancy Walkers. John had a clear idea of what he wanted to be: a Green Elf. When we made our special trip to the store we were told the elves were not among the fancy walkers, but were Sign Bearers. The SIgn Bearers had to report to McGregor School Friday evening from 7-9 for a meeting where all would be revealed.
As the designated costume-friendly parent, I went along to the meeting. It was held in the gym. The chairs were set up beautifully in a traditional semi-circle big enough for the 100-odd teens who had assembled. There were two nice Lions Club men taking waivers at the door.
We didn't have a waiver. No problem, they said. Go see those two old men at the table over there. We did. They didn't have waivers. Go see that guy there drinking from the bottle they said. The guy who was preparing to lead the meeting. So we did. Are you Catholic or not? he asked. Not, we said. Turns out he thought we needed the form to get our high school volunteer hours verified for participation. That cleared up, he gave us a waiver. We signed it, delivered it to the first two men and sat to be enlightened.
I will note that the arrangement of the chairs was the best-organized part of the event. If the affable gentleman with the forms had tried, he could not have been less clear. Never were we told any useful information. There was no assumption made that people knew what to do but he was all in a muddle. A woman with a very complicated elf hat herself climbed on a chair and explained things better, but her explanation ended with a call to action that entirely messed up the Forms Man's game plan. Several times he lost his train of thought. "I am going to..." he said. "Have a drink." And so he did.
Despite this, we had our costume, had signed up on a list and got our requisite coat check papers for the costume -- all of which were done in complete confusion and bewilderment on the part of the organizers -- and were out of there, laughing our heads off by 7:40.
"He was drinking vodka," my precocious 11-year old elf commented. I cracked up.
"That's a reasonable explanation," I said.
"No," he said. "Those men at the table said that - they said, see that guy drinking vodka over there?"
I had missed that part.
I fed him waffles and sausages the next morning to fortify him against the cold. We had been warned to be there by 8 am OR ELSE. We were there. He had his costume on by 8:01 and sat and played on his iPod, the youngest of all elves, until they assembled on the street at 9:15.
In the meantime, I went to the market, went home and put supper in the slow cooker, and biked over to the parade at 10. At about 10:45, my elf came by. He spotted me in the crowd and waved gaily. Other than that, he was what a friend described as a Conservative Elf.
At the end of the parade, he was ushered onto a bus and brought back to the school for pizza. I'm not sure anyone spoke to him the whole time. But he still loved it. I went into it, he explained, to be famous. To be on tv and to have people I know in the crowd see me. But I liked the little kids waving and getting excited about seeing Santa's Real Elves.
He explained all this to me later at home as we both thawed out. His cheeks were pink, largely with the makeup that had been drawn on them in rosy circles. Next year, he wanted to do it again, but he knew exactly what he wanted to be: A Christmas Tree. That costume, he explained, had Christmas presents for shoes.