My son and I took a trip to the museum. The replica Japanese tea house was on the second floor and so was the collection of Samurai armor. We looked at shapes. Forms. Key pieces. For the Darth Vaderish helmet with large Stag beetle-like pincer thingies on the top, I had a hard hat in the basement that I could spray-paint black. For the leather-like strips down the back? This foamy paper stuff, cut into strips, stapled and hot-glued maybe with some drapery cording here and there . . .
He came up with the idea of black sweat pants wrapped with black medical tape around his shins, and black socks worn with black flip-flops. The breast plates with peplum? For those I needed something sturdy yet pliable, something that looked embossed, armor-ish. Rubber flooring? Too stiff. Carpet padding? Nah. I’d kill whatever brain cells ones I had left by spray-painting it black. And then . . . right there. At one of our routine trips to the hardware store. In the automotive aisle. Car floor mats. Perfect!
For weeks, I hot glued, stapled, cut. We had fittings. Alterations were made for optimum movement and easy access to accommodate personal needs. We topped the whole ensemble off with large Stag beetle pincers that I made out of foam core then hot-glued onto the utterly awesome helmet and accessorized the look with a psuedo katana – the only item purchased at a bona fide costume shop.
Überific Mother greeted us dressed as Morticia Adams to her husband’s Gomez. Boring! They had no clue as to what my son was. I explained the whole Samurai scenario, and halfway through, I could tell by her glazed eyes that I had lost my audience. She wasn’t the only one who didn’t get it. None of the kids did, either.
My seven-year-old samurai stood out in a cliched crowd of store-bought, cheap, throwaway, soon-to-be-forgotten Homer Simpsons, Britney Spearses and Brett Favres. Three hours later, when I picked him up, his helmet bore some nicks and his breastplate had come loose.
“So, how was it?” I asked.
“OK, but, nobody got what I was,” he said, winded. “And I gave up trying to explain.”
I winced. Maybe I should have talked him out of historical antiquity and steered him towards something a little more mainstream? I had expected my mothering stock to go all 1990s dot com, instead it had only inched up a fraction of a point.
“So, next year?” I said.
“Yeah, I’ve been thinking . . .”
“Um, how about an archeologist?”
“You’re thinking pith helmet . . . ?” I said.
“Huh? No. I’m thinking leather jacket, hat, bag . . . Indiana Jones, Mom!”
Ah, yes. I should have known. We just got the entire set on tape. OK. I already had the hat, the bag would be no problem, neither would the jacket . . . but the whip?
Heavy is the hand that carries the plastic katana.
Mel Miskimen is the author of Cop's Kid: A Milwaukee Memoir