Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Kiddies and Characters

For reasons I have never been able to divine, from the moment mothers lay their eyes on your costumed body, reason takes flight. No doubt children and husbands can think of countless other circumstances when sensibile thinking seems to have fled the maternal mind, but I can't help but notice this singular response that wearing a character costume provokes in Momma Bear. Take note: clowns do not yield the same response. (As one can imagine, clowns tend to be objects either of revulsion, derision, or simple laughter, by parents and child alike.)

There is something about the matted fur of Cookie or the sagging padded thighs of Batman that give rise to an irrepressible feeling among the mothers of the party: they must give me their children.

Sure, they want pictures and it certainly seems innocent at first. Five minutes later, with your bad knee threatening to give out and seven children on or around you, and you'll wipe that smile off your masked face.

A classic example has to be a recent Elmo gig. The kids were another group of Sesame Street fanatics, armed with all sorts of trivia about Elmo (does he have a street address, a favorite song, a girlfriend?) and animated with a zeal entirely unappropriate for 8 o'clock on a Sunday night. The party was inside, but the entertaining too place outside. In the dark. A perfect environment when Elmo's vision is limited to the ground two feet in front of him.

In this inky blackness, I suddenly felt a bundle being thrust into my arms, with the command to sing to the birthday girl. For a split-second, almost too long, I thought this had to be some kind of present I was to hand to the birthday child. Stricken by some kind of divine intervention, I realized said bundle was the birthday girl, cooing and cackling as one-year olds are fond of doing.

I can only imagine what would have happened if I hadn't had extensive experience carrying babies (lots of younger siblings). As various hands guided my around the yard from one photo shoot to another--the horde of youngsters following and tugging at me the entire time--I cradled that child as if it were my own. When I clipped a lawn chair and stumbled, my obituary flashed before my eyes: He was beaten to death with Elmo dolls and empty Smirnoff Ice bottles on Sunday evening, by the mother and aunts of the child he had just dropped. I would have preferred my life do the flashing.

Amazingly, the photos continued. After an interregnum for some final balloons, Elmo was escorted up the stairs and into the child's room, for a photo shoot in various poses. Someday, this poor child will be looking at family pictures and realize the stork didn't bring him: a filthy red monster dripping sweat actually delivered him to his family. Heavens.