I describe the junior high years as an odd combination. In some ways, you feel grown up and adult-like, wanting to try out make up and check out the dating scene. In other ways, you still (secretly) want to build things with Play-Doh or occasionally play on the playground at a park. Thus the paradox of the middle school brain – you’re caught in the middle.
I remember my fondest junior high memories involved this dichotomy, namely the junior high Halloween competition. Every year at Halloween, we could dress up in costumes for school. We would have an assembly at lunch time, involving a judge (usually a representative from the local paper), and a Halloween parade through the junior high gym. The winners received enormous bags of mixed chocolate, plus the bragging rights – big deal in junior high.
So one year, my friend Cynthia decided she wanted me and another friend, Melissa, to enter the group competition. Her idea? We could be Chef Boyardee, The Hamburger Helper Hand, and the Pillsbury Dough Boy. We thought the idea was original and funny – enough to win the coveted bag of treats. The problem was making the costumes. How were we going to transform Cynthia into a giant talking oven mitt?
Enter my mom.
My mom has a tendency to be the most weirdly creative and talented person I know. Proof: 1) She once died fabric needed to match a beige shirt by staining a white T-shirt in a bowl of tea. 2) She can fold a fitted sheet. (I swear, she has magic sheet-folding powers. I try to fold a fitted sheet, and it’s just a wadded ball.) Naturally, Mom did not hesitate with this costume challenge. She almost immediately said, “I think we can do that.”
I, as Chef Boyardee, would be the easiest. She made an apron and chef’s hat for me. Melissa’s Pillsbury Dough Boy costume consisted of a white shirt and pants with a large white trash bag taped around her body. Then, we stuffed it with newspaper. This worked great, until all of the paper would settle down at the bottom, causing Melissa to waddle, clown-like throughout the halls until we fluffed her back up. The trickiest costume would need all of my mom’s magical powers.
How do you make a giant oven mitt – a giant oven mitt with only four fingers?
First, Mom drew a glove-ish figure around Cynthia on the floor. She stitched and hemmed the fabric together. Then, with a box of Hamburger Helper as a model, we drew and colored on the face. Next, Mom dunked the fabric into a bucket of liquid starch. We let it dry for approximately 800 hundred hours or so. The struggle became keeping the fingers from flopping around. My mom rigged a helmet of sorts for Cynthia to put the middle finger on her head, and we cut a hole in the costume for her face. We tied elastic around her waist to attach a pillow and stuff in the thumb.
When she tried the whole contraption on, the two side fingers kept flopping over, giving all of us the biggest flipping off ever.
My mom arranged some shoulder pads to stick on Cynthia’s shoulders. Those didn’t work either. Finally, around midnight of the night before the competition, my mom just made my friend stand in a Y position (think Village People) at all times.
The next day, Cynthia walked around the halls with her hands ready to sing a never-ending chorus of the “YMCA” while her big, fat thumb pummeled each passerby right in the crotch. I had to carry all of her books for her. Occasionally, she would get tired, and flip off all of the 7th graders. But, in the end the tired arms and the bird-giving paid off because we won!