So I wore them today. The honeymoon is over in 3rd grade. As seems to happen every October, social problems are popping up everywhere, like Trick-or-Treaters on Halloween night. Horses, social issues, and Halloween? They're all tied together in this story about my own childhood that I shared in class this morning, as I introduced Personal Narrative writing:
Even now, 44 years later, I wonder what I should have said when Sally Peterson, pure white from head to toe in her Mummy-Knight on a Horse costume, came trotting up to me, thrusting her broom-handled jousting stick toward me, and snarled, “You stole my idea. I should have won first prize.”
Next to Sally stood a hideous witch, Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee, and a vampire ballerina, all glaring at me, hissing things like, “Sally’s costume is better anyway!” and “I bet you didn’t make that yourself!” and “People who don’t ride shouldn’t be allowed to wear horse costumes.”
I started to explain that I’d gotten the idea for my Canadian Mounted Policeman over the summer, when my family had taken a trip to Canada and seen a show with a hundred Mounties that looked just like me. But Sally’s group all turned and stormed away, muttering about how I was such a liar. I must have spied on them. They all remembered times I’d been near them when they were talking.
I thought back to that magical spectacle of horses on ice in Ottawa, and how I’d leaned over to my mother and said, “That’s what I want to be for Halloween this year.” I thought about how hard I’d worked to make my tall, black, fuzzy hat stay upright on my head. I looked down at my brother’s old pants that I’d sewed and stuffed to look like legs dangling on the outside of the cardboard box. A whole weekend of sewing, cutting cardboard, trying things on in front of the mirror, and sewing or stuffing or cutting some more.
Paula Rickard, dressed in her paper mini-dress and plastic high heels, and holding a cordless phone, came over to congratulate me for winning first prize. I congratulated her for winning second prize. “Do you think we’ll wear paper clothes and talk on cordless phones when we grow up?” I asked. We talked about the future for a while, and then I confided, “Lizzy thinks I stole her idea.”
“You’re not a Mummy Knight,” Paula replied. “And you’re not leaving a trail of baby powder and toilet paper wherever you go. I bet she’d like to go home and wash that stuff out of her hair.”
We giggled and wandered off to find Paula’s mother, who drove our carpool on Tuesdays. As we loaded my costume into the back of the station wagon, I told Mrs. Rickard that tonight would be my last time to Trick or Treat, since my mom believed Halloween was for children. Next year, when I would be in 7th grade, I would hand out the candy.
I was glad my mom wasn’t there right then. When Sally, Kate, Carol, and Sueann walked by, they all turned to glare at me. My mom would have noticed. Mrs. Rickard just prattled on about how she better drive carefully with two prize winning costumes in the car.
When we got to my house, my mom helped me carry my box inside. “First prize! You must be so proud. You worked hard, and it paid off.”
I tried to smile, but all I could think of was Sally, and what her group would say tomorrow. I headed upstairs, muttering, “I need to do some homework before dark. My last night for Trick or Treating!”
“Is that why you’re glum? Everyone has to grow up. You’ll love handing out the candy next year!”
At least there won’t be a costume contest at school next year, I thought. Maybe Sally will forget about how I stole first prize. I just wish I could do something right.My students had lots of questions when I finished my story. Many of them about how I made my costume--was there a motorized vehicle under the box?--and lots about why Sally was so mean. And I asked many questions: "Do you think I handled it well? I felt as if they were so mean. What should you do when someone is mean? But do you think I did anything mean? What should I have done?"
Such a great conversation about speaking up, about trying to work things out, about not letting bad feelings fester. And so many more conversations to have over the next days, weeks, and months.