Sunday, December 11, 2016

Family Fun

Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.
Oscar Wilde

Growing up, my parents dressed up in costumes at any opportunity, and were big practical jokers, and my brother and I inherited those traits. We all love an excuse to dress up.  My parents always had a dresser full of different parts and pieces -- wigs, hats, boas, masks. Once, my dad got ready to leave for a party with an Uncle Sam hat on, rubber snakes coming out of it, wearing a hospital gown and carrying a briefcase--even he didn't know who he was supposed to be--but he was excited about what he was wearing and ready to go.

One of my childrens' favorite stories is when I was about 16 and my brother 19, the summer after his first year in college. There was a huge masquerade party with half of the town invited. As we "Came Of Age" in the 1980s, I dressed like Joan Jett and he was Sting. I had spiky black hair and high heels that I could barely walk in, even when I hadn't had a couple of drinks. We spray painted my brother's hair gold and he wore tight rock and roll clothes. We acted like a couple of hooligans all night. My parents had declined the invitation for the party, preferring to go out to dinner instead. The event was outdoors and really crowded, and very hot, as it was August in Virginia. At one point during the party two people showed up in long black robes and rubber masks that completely hid their faces. Everyone was talking about them because no one knew who they were--this was a small town--who was crashing the party? And no one could believe they could stand to wear those hot rubber masks as the humidity was crushing. The one dressed like the little old lady came up and pinched me at one point and asked me if I was old enough to be drinking beer. I'm sure I said something rude to her. They were the talk of the party, and eventually left quietly. The next day we filled in my parents on (some of) our exploits and talked about all of the costumes.

Skip ahead about 4 months. It was Christmas Day, and we had just finished opening all our gifts. My mother asked if I'd opened a box with a new purse in it. When I told her I hadn't she told me she must have forgotten it, and sent me up to her closet where she hid all our gifts (of course I knew that, so very few of the gifts were actually a surprise). I opened an old hat box, looking for the forgotten purse, and I pulled out -- 2 rubber masks.(!) oh no oh no oh no !!!!!!  What had they seen me doing at the party?.. I started yelling for my brother, and my parents realized their gig was up.  Flies on the wall, in costume.

Many many costumes and excuses to dress up have followed. Then I had children and making their costumes took over interest I had in dressing up myself. But several years ago, a new excuse for creative costuming has emerged.

We started a new tradition of flying to my brother's family 's house for Thanksgiving.  We always arrive late at night and he picks us up with a cooler full of our favorite beverages. The first year we flew to Austin, and he wanted to demonstrate how he had become a "real" Texan. Head to toe in jeans, cowboy boots, a ten gallon hat, and yes, even a Bolo tie (I hadn't seen one since the 80s)! And we promptly got into his pickup truck.  That was the first.

The next year, Chapter 2. He showed up at the airport in a black suit, dark sunglasses, and a sign with our name, looking like a chauffeur. Just like Hoke in Driving Miss Daisy.

Last year my mother and I decided to take our turn, so when we picked them up at the airport at Christmas we were dressed like the Beverly Hillbillies, complete with a misspelled sign with their name, and took it even further by blacking out our teeth. I wore a blond wig that looked like a curly perm and a pillow under my wife beater tee for a big belly. His plane ended up being late so we sat in the airport looking like fools for an hour and a half. My Mom and I laughed at each other for the entire wait. For the rest of my days I will never forget the look on my brother's face when he realized who the country bumpkins were-- it still makes me laugh.

(An aside: when my Mama first appeared that night in costume I was quick enough to catch a video of her, with a memorable statement that she spontaneously came out with. All of her grandchildren, et al repeat this statement every single time we see her. My oldest son even took the video and put it through an Auto Rap app. I'm sorry I've been forbidden to show it here).

We have just returned from their new home in Florida, from Thanksgiving. We assumed that my brother would be in costume, but we decided to catch him off guard, and arrive in costumes ourselves.  I bought some black hats for my boys, my mom found a couple of old calico dresses and  rush-ordered some bonnets from Amazon. The pilgrims were about to arrive!

We did surprise him, and puzzled quite a few people in the airport when the group (some of who looked like Hasidic Jews) greeted and stood with the surfer dude.

Anyway, here's what I've been working on this week.