Friday, May 14, 2010

Under The Wire

Well, I didn't get the memo about yesterday being "Hat Day" at Winnie's preschool, so I guess it was just a stroke of luck that she chose to make the much-adored, beaded, gold Cleopatra headdress part of her Thursday enemble- along with leg warmers, Sleeping Beauty Slippers, and the kind of hand-smocked sundress most little southern girls wear with spotless white tennis shoes and a coordinating headband.

I am probably the least-informed parent ever when it comes to special occasion days-and these last few weeks before summer are chock-full of them. But seriously- regular, anticipated events like school pictures somehow slip past me. I can't decide if it's my fault or if I'm really not getting all the information, but on Picture Day, after Winnie was already dressed and at school and I saw the "reminder" email that had just then arrived in my inbox, I pretty much gave up for the year. It just so happened that "Picture Day" coincided with Winnie's big brother wanting to choose her outfit and do her hair, by himself. You can imagine the Extreme Makeover that took place in our bathroom that morning: She looked like a tiny Cyndi Lauper crossed with Nellie Olsen and a side ponytail. But the good news is, there were retakes! Only, we missed them because we were out of town. Oh, well.

I suppose my saving grace is that I am generally pretty good at launching last-minute creative endeavors, like the one above, which commenced approximately 14 minutes before we left the house this morning-and I owe a big thank you to my friend Katherine who tipped me off on the day's theme.   I will say, in designing costumes, that it's good to have certain things on hand, like a glue gun, duct tape, and a box of....well, junk. It's also good to let your four-year-old choose the base of the outfit, because chances are, that layer alone will be costume enough. For Outer Space Day, another helpful hint is to stick with the alien/robot theme because the astronaut route is just too small a box to fit in. I mean, once you go all NASA on people's A's, the next thing you know, they're going to expect you to be some Nobel-winning scientist or something. But if you wear a colander and some googly eyes on your head, the pressure's off: you are an artist, and the world? Your oyster. Interpretive dancer, television jingle-composer, namer of nail polish colors=no box, or at least not a square one. Don't you agree?

Maybe the ninth-hour approach is my style, after all. If I had all the time in the world, or as some people call it, advance notice, to plan these costumes and parties and whatnot, I'd drive myself crazy, dwelling in possibility. It's kind of like our approach to Lauren becoming a big brother: We didn't tell him I was pregnant until we left for the hospital. I just said, "Mommy's bringing back a baby, and I'm really going to need your help when I get home. See ya!" And I'm telling you, it was an absolutely flawless transition. No sibling rivalry, no hair pulling, no Big Brother trying to set the house afire while I nursed the baby--and I really think it's because we didn't give him time to over-think it. He didn't laze around for nine months imagining all the ways life as he knew it was about to end. He just played trains, ate Pirate's Booty, and wondered, occasionally, why Mommy was as big as a house.

Likewise, I didn't tell Winnie about the components of this costume until we put them on, in the parking lot. Yes, she rode to school in her underwear; I was waiting for the glue to dry on the dress. But with the costume on, walking up the sidewalk to enter the building, she began to adopt the quirks of a true interloper. The "crazy lady glasses" (that's what they're actually called at the party store) kept falling off, and we had to rig the colander on with a headband, but by the time we crossed the threshold of her classroom, she was popping and beeping like a regular Martian. And as I watched, while her friends surrounded her and marveled at the strangeness and fun of it all, I saw that she wasn't self-conscious, or proud. She was just happy. No matter what she's got on, that kid is always in her own skin. Sometimes, spur-of-the-moment, if you can swing it--is perfection.

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