This week my boys' elementary school held its annual Book Character Parade. Students are encouraged to dress like their favorite story book characters and then file through the halls and gym carrying books to match. It is a greatly anticipated event in our house because wearing a costume to school is fun! This year's parade was held earlier than last year's which means I had to make a trip to Party City in early September versus late October. Jake had spent ample time researching Star Wars Clone Wars costumes on the Internet and decided Clone Trooper Cody was this year's choice for trick or treating. Slap a Star Wars book in his hand and presto Jake is ready for Book Character Parade. One costume, two events. Cost per wear is already down to $10.
I arrive home from Party City with the correct clone trooper costume (there is more than one clone trooper) plus an Obi Wan Kenobi costume for Zach. Party City got me on the clone trooper blaster (illegal to carry in the parade but legal in the neighborhood) and clone trooper gloves plus two new candy pails to use later next month. Jake tries on his costume and gloves and tests out the blaster. He asks me if he can sleep in the costume and I say no because "if you get a tear in it I'm not buying another one and that fabric can't be washed so I don't want it to get dirty and this costume has to last until Halloween so you have to take good care of it". Sorry he asked, I'm sure. I didn't mention that the label clearly states in four different languages to "keep away from fire". I would be a terrible mother to let my child sleep in such hazardous apparel. I do let him keep the blaster by his bed.
Zach tries on the Obi Wan costume and is very complaint as I tie the sash around his tunic. I suspect the compliance is based on Zach seeing the new candy pails and thinking we are headed out for a big night. My suspicions are confirmed when he grabs his new pail and walks to the front door. Zach points to the lock he can't reach and says, "I want trick or treat, open it." Bless his little, live-in-the-moment heart. "Oh great," Jake says, "now he wants candy and you're going to have to get us some."
I explain to Zach that this is just practice, new costumes, practice. While explaining I remove the Obi Wan costume because it is too big on my boy and resembles a dress worn over pajama pants. The superman costume from last year, and the year before that, is pulled from the closet and I hope it still fits. Zach willingly steps into the costume even as I continue to say "just practice". Superman fits! Just barely. We can make it one more season in this costume and the cost per wear is down to $4. I'm feeling very proud of my recycling efforts. The boys take off their costumes and I hang them (costumes not boys) safely in the closet.
On Book Character Parade morning Jake gets dressed in a flash and I'm wondering why we can't have that kind of enthusiasm every morning but oh yeah, he is a clone today and most other days he is just a boy. Zach seems skeptical about the costume scene this morning, probably thinking that costumes and backpack don't go together, costumes and treat pails do. Reluctantly he suits up in the Superman costume as I promise there will be treats in the pails after school. "Really?" Jake asks. Really. I place the Superman book in Zach's backpack and that makes it official.
At school the boys go into their classrooms and I walk toward the gym to secure a prime viewing position for the parade. Camera in hand, I am ready to photograph my characters as they parade behind their teachers and with their classes. I was here last year too, camera in hand waiting for my kindergartner Zach to enter the gym. His teacher came in followed by his classmates but no Zach. Maybe I missed him? How would I miss him? Minutes later Jake comes by and I get a blurry picture of him because despite my yelling "Jake, over here, over here!" he couldn't find me and didn't want to hold up the line stopping to look.
After last year's parade I found Zach and another teacher in the hallway. He looked scared and nervous, overwhelmed too. The teacher said Zach saw the children and heard the music and didn't want to go with the class so she stayed in the room with him. Too much.
Maybe Zach will go with his class this year. Maybe he will just fall in line and walk proudly holding his book just like the hundreds of other kids this morning. But even if he doesn't that's OK, I can't base the value of today on if Zach participates or not. He does lots of things well and I'm reminding myself of this as the music begins playing over the loudspeaker signaling the start of the parade.
It is fun to see the principal dressed as Cat in the Hat and the assistant principal dressed as a doctor offering flu shots. It's interesting to see the P.E. teacher dressed like an elf right down to the striped tights. But it is thrilling to see my super man walk into the gym with his first grade class and look right at me. Zach has an unsure look on his face that tells me the crowd and the costumes and the music are a little much but he's there, he is parading with his class. Zach's class leaves the gym headed for the hallways and in minutes Jake and his second grade teacher and classmates come by and I watch him scan the crowd for me. "Jake, Jake!" I call. He finds me and I snap his picture. Easy does it, easily.
Before leaving the school, I locate Zach in the hallway and hug him, telling him how proud I am. The teachers are proud too. "He did great" they say over and over, remembering that last year Zach wouldn't leave the room. It would have been OK if Zach stayed behind this year but it was a sweet moment watching him move forward.
As promised, there were treats in those pails waiting for my boys after school. I told Jake he looked very, very cool in his clone trooper costume and then Jake and I both told Zach what a good job he did. Zach didn't have any response other than the smile he wore as he checked out the contents of his pail. "Worth it" he's probably saying to himself. Worth it for sure.