It was the stuff of dreams; my 8-year-old landed the dog's part in the school play. I'm not saying that he drew a bad part, I'm saying that he got the part of a dog. Since he had his lines down pat, ("Rowf, rowf, rowf,") all he needed was a costume. I made the mistake of asking Michael what he wanted the costume to look like. "I want a long tail."
I didn't have the time or material to make a full body dog costume, especially since there's no one after Michael to grow into the suit. I was all about ease and thrift.
"Is a pipe cleaner tail long enough?" I asked hopefully.
You would have thought I'd punched my son in the stomach by the look on his face. "No, Mom, that would look stupid." Ah, those halcyon kindergarten days when imagination could make popsicle sticks into the coolest cell phone you ever saw.
"How about wearing your old cow suit?" I asked. "It has spots, just like a dog."
"Those are COW spots," Michael informed me. "They're different than DOG spots."
Now I knew. But I didn't have the time, material, or energy to make a full body dog costume, especially since there's no one after Michael to grow into the suit. I was all about ease and thrift.
Michael and I made a trip to the store to see what doggish ensemble we could both agree on. In the boys' department, we were both delighted to find a brown hooded sweatshirt on sale for half off. Michael said it was warm, and I said it was the right price. We looked all over for brown sweatpants in his size, but we couldn't find any. The brown cargo pants were too big. But wait... what's this? Black sweatpants, and they fit!
"But, Mom, they don't match."
"Come here, Michael, I want to show you a secret." (This is one of the best mommy tactics ever for gaining cooperation, at least temporarily.) I led my curious son over to the craft section where we riffled through rectangles of felt. We unearthed brown and black pieces that matched his new clothing so well, they could have been from the same dye lot.
"Look," I said, holding up one of each against the hood of his jacket. "You could have one brown ear, and one black ear."
Michael's eyes lit up. "Then I could be a brown and black dog!"
I sagged with relief. "Yes, you could."
"And I could have a black tail with brown spots."
I tensed up again. "A short tail," I said.
Michael shook his head. "A long, furry tail."
I sighed and bent over the felt rectangles again. I had really hoped I wouldn't have to break out the sewing machine this time around. I picked up some extra brown and black felt squares and paid for our purchases.
When we got home, I went to work. The ears were easy, especially since after I cut them out, I safety pinned them to the sweatshirt hood. Then I got busy sewing brown felt together, bending a wire to fit inside, and wrapping the wire with stuffing that tapered to a point. Then I top-stitched the felt squares along the stuffing, leaving the extra hanging down from the tail tip to where it met with the thick part of the tail near the body.
Okay, if you're not following this, don't try any more. The point is, there was some fabric hanging down from the tail that we cut into fringe, or hair if you prefer. Michael was delighted. So was I. (We were almost done!)
Michael glued black spots on the brown tail with a hot glue gun as fast as I could cut the spots out. When he finished, he admired the tail, then asked, "How are we going to keep it on?"
This was when it was most tempting to point out to my son that the pipe cleaner tail would have been far superior in the attaching department of costumery, but it wouldn't have done any good.
As I studied the problem, Michael said wistfully, "Real dogs' tails are super glued to their butts."
And with that simple statement came the laughter, and the sudden gladness that Michael and I had worked together to make his costume into one that he felt good wearing, and still meet the quality of being one that I could tolerate putting together.
Finally, with a belt and a few slits in the felt-from-heaven (no fraying, so no hemming needed) we buckled that tail on Michael's behind, and his performance resulted in gales of laughter from the delighted audience.
That perfect dog tail now resides in our costume box. Anybody need a Fido outfit any time soon? No super glue required.
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