Tall Tales

Posted by jdg | Thursday, February 23, 2012 |


It all started with a sword. A stick, really: we were playfighting in the park and I made a Z in the sand. That led to the story of SeƱor Zorro, the heroic masked defender of the weak who left his mark wherever he went with his cutlass. Those stories led to an exclusive viewing of the youtubed Douglas Fairbanks version of Mark of Zorro. Antonio Banderwho? So he gathered up Darth Vader's cape, a long-sleeved black t-shirt turned inside out, the hat that the Nain Rouge wore last year, and asked me to make him a cloth mask. Thus Zorrito was born:


When he puts on that mask, my son disappears and I have to deal with Zorro himself. All my pants now have a Z cut into the seat. Chandeliers regularly fall on my head to silent guffaws. He won't answer to his own name and will only talk to people if they acknowledge him as Zorro. It's sort of like dealing with a 4-year-old Robert De Niro. He won't take any of this off when we go out in public either. Pity me: I have to bring l'il Zorro with me to the coffee shop.


As I'm sure it is with a lot of kids, when this one sees or hears about a character that appeals to his sensibilities he doesn't just want to hear more about him, he wants to become him. Of course, I indulge this, and his faith in the possibility of becoming anyone is encouraged by all the costumes we make him. He may only be a few feet in height, but I love helping him feel as tall as he can imagine. By now our costume collection is the envy of several small-town community theaters. Neighbors seek access to it when their kids need something for the school play. I love it, and only occasionally fear that LARPing is an inevitable part of his future. I really love it when he throws a costume together on his own based on some story he just heard, whether that's Ulysses or Beowulf or my favorite so far: Paul Bunyan. I read him a thrifted Paul Bunyan story book a few weeks ago and (of course) he had to be Paul Bunyan. He put together the flannel shirts, knit cap, boots and drew his own beard. He just needed an axe, so he pestered me until I glued a couple pieces of dense foam from an old laptop case to a dowel. A bit of gray spray paint and he was ready to chop down a few thousand trees that afternoon:


It hasn't been easy making six hundred flapjacks every morning, but we'll survive. His sister wanted to get in on the fun, so she naturally chose to be Babe the Blue Ox. We already had the head from an old hobby ox in the basement, and we just added some blue fabric scraps left over from the Totoro project. I think she found the shirt in a pile of clothes her mother planned to donate to the Salvation Army:


I've heard that graphic designers and unemployed baristas have been dressing like lumberjacks in Brooklyn for awhile now, so maybe this isn't even all that weird. These kids have been so much fun lately I've felt inspired to make them some complicated new costumes. More on that soon.