He has never seen a "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie. He has a vague idea of the storyline because his father has unraveled some of the tales during their movie story time. But he's stumped when I ask him to recite a couple of lines of dialogue, something he can do for way too long for every single movie he's ever seen, and he's iffy on the characters.
But Captain Jack Sparrow he knows. And through this character, my character became entranced with all the idea of embodying the slightly swishy Captain Jack himself. Hey, it's Johnny Depp. How could a mother refuse?
So we purchased the costume, the boot covers, the bandana with sewn-in sort-of dreadlocks. He begged for a sword or machete. I refused. I mentioned the possibility of facial hair and reminded and reminded and reminded me that it could not be make-up, that it needed to feel real. I hunted down a special Captain Jack-ed goatee and trimmed more than half of it away so it would fit his tiny chin. We studied Google images of the sassy, slightly swishy swashbuckler and despite his lack of knowledge about this whole thing, I couldn't help but think how perfect this get-up is for my kid.
This costume quirk means that I never really have to justify shelling out too much cash for a Halloween outfit. After all, he will wear it repeatedly and it will be disassembled into props that will one day hone him into a YouTube sensation or Last Comic Standing. Or on a frustrated guidance counselor's weekly schedule.
But by the time Halloween edged close, I'd shelled out plenty and was happy for the giant-head-sized hat with loads of heavy dread locks and braids Lil E's dad got as a loaner for him to wear. It turned the whole costume up several notches and, although he has a few bouts with drunk Winona, some tattoo mistakes and many years smoking clove cigarettes angrily in Parisian cafes to make up before he in any resembles The Depp, the kid was looking pretty great all dolled up as a devilish, sorta-mannish pirate.
Until he put it all on for real. Rather, pre-for-real, at a Tae Kwon Do party a few days before Halloween. Then the hat was too heavy and fell over his eyes. The bandana and hair strands were too itchy. The rings were too big, the glove uncomfortable. The boots slipped down and he was unsure about the whole goatee thing after all. The plastic belts attached to the flouncy shirt and knickers, however? Very happy with all that.
I had a moment of mind-reeling when it felt really important to get him completely geared up for the Real Deal. The money I'd spent! The hours invested! The hype about the fake hair! THIS WAS HALLOWEEN! NOT A DRESS REHEARSAL!
I laid out each piece before school, those thoughts pounding through my mind like my mission needed to be convincing how great it would be to fully and completely become this character he really knows nothing about. What about eyeliner? Black nail polish? A few extra belts from my drawer?
When I helped him shimmy the thin polyester shirt, vest and knickers over his clothes, all that nonsense faded to the background.
His hips are still so thin. His hands wrapped around my neck just like he did when I carried him in a sling years ago. His long eyelashes batted. His cheek pressed against mine. I decided to conspire with him again.
I presented each part of the costume, asking if it was a good time to wear it. He said no to the hat, glove and boots. Said he'd think about the eyeliner for later and asked me to make sure the goatee was all set for trick-or-treating later. He did want the bandana and bits of hair and so I volunteered to fold it and tie it on backwards so it wouldn't itch as much.
Then he was all set.
With the ruffles and half-pants and hair extensions framing his sweet little face, he did look more like Real Housewife of the Caribbean than a Captain Jack.
But he felt every bit the part of the pirate he was playing. To that, I could only nod and play along.
As we drove to school, I caught site of him straightening his weave and asked how he felt all dressed up.
"Good!" he said in his pat response, then looked up and smiled and said, "Pretty amazing."
Of course, that's what I wanted, what I was willing to pay in polyester for, what I will treasure in years of photos posed by the pumpkin at the front door.
Later, he donned every bit but the glove -- with soft hair bands holding up the boots and even a few dabs of eyeliner he decided was actually a great idea after studying one more screen full of Captain Jack still shots. He ran through the streets with the twenty other kids we joined to trick-or-treat. He tore through yards, steadied himself on stairs, looted for fun-size candy bars with only the glare of orange bulbs strung across porches and trees to lead the band of merry thieves through the dark of Halloween night.
If the shrieks of small children and yelled-out warnings of parents would have quieted, I am sure I would have heard the swish-swish of his braided goatee and the click of the beaded hair fading into the distance as my Jack Sparrow, the one Lil E created well beyond the packaged costume and cinematic fame, flew off.
Happily ever after. Or well after the twenty good minutes until most of it was yanked off and shoved under a pile of mini Snickers and Sweet Tarts.
He did exactly what you're supposed to do on Halloween, despite what Party City would have parents and kids believe -- he made the costume his own. And in it, he became amazing.
He can hold off on the eyeliner until middle school. The goatee can wait until prom. But I hope every time he emerges wearing some part of that dramatic get-up to take out the garbage or rush off to Sunday school, he recaptures a bit of amazing for himself.