Lind­say Woods

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - News - @the­girlinthep­a­per

“I’m a swan. Here’s the note about my cos­tume. I need it for Tues­day.” There is noth­ing that causes me to ex­pe­ri­ence cold sweats, night­mares or a con­sid­er­able mi­graine than the note de­tail­ing the cos­tume guide­lines for the Christ­mas play.

From what I can re­mem­ber of my time in the spot­light (or as far to stage left as pos­si­ble), my cos­tume con­sisted of ei­ther a tea towel on my head (one of the Wise Men) or my dress­ing gown (Shep­herd). I could lie and say that I did not covet the blue bed­sheet and white place­mat head garb of Mary her­self but alas, I was for­ever des­tined to be, ‘Al­ways the brides­maid, never the bride’. Or in my case, just the Shep­herd.

What I do re­mem­ber, how­ever, is my mother not be­ing overly vexed about kit­ting me out to sit on a too small chair in or­der to hear my one gar­bled line of, ‘Look, the star!’

Nowa­days, na­tiv­ity plays are not com­mon place in many pri­mary schools. Which, I whole­heart­edly agree with. It is one great stride in be­ing in­clu­sive and con­sid­er­ate of ev­ery­one’s be­liefs; chil­dren and par­ents alike. It has, as a re- sult, paved the way for many more ‘imag­i­na­tive’ pro­duc­tions. With the cos­tumes to match.

I have got­ten off rel­a­tively lightly; Christ­mas jumpers with some jaunty antlers in ju­nior classes, a Garda cos­tume (the year it all went a bit ‘Love Hate’ at the North Pole)… all rel­a­tively tame and widely avail­able.

Then came the Swan. My child is a mi­cro-man­ager. If sent home with a note, she will ex­pect me to fol­low the in­struc­tions to the very last let­ter. She is also fully aware of my in­com­pe­tence as a DIYer; much to her dis­gust and de­spair. She knows the only way she will re­sem­ble a long necked, el­e­gant, serene, snow white and of­ten lauded bird is if her mother can pur­chase it. Any at­tempt at mak­ing such would ren­der her as a mallard with a dose of mange. Not a good look on any­one. The note help­fully sug­gested to look on­line. I mean, as a par­ent to­day, the in­ter­net is pretty much my first port of call. There are days when I spend more time in con­ver­sa­tion with Siri than I do with my own hus­band. I was feel­ing pretty smug and se­cure that I would lo­cate a ju­nior ver­sion of some con­coc­tion to ri­val those of the of­fer­ings in Swan Lake and overnight it. All for less than 20 euro of course.

I’ll just give you a few sec­onds to com­pose your­self and wipe the tears of laugh­ter stream­ing down your face.

The first on­line cos­tume shop looked promis­ing. With a spe­cific sec­tion for ‘An­i­mals and In­sects’ and 232 op­tions in re­la­tion to same, I was con­fi­dent. Not a feather, friends. Un­less it was in the guise of an owl.

“Are you sure there isn’t a part for an owl in the play that you could em­body in­stead? Or a croc­o­dile?”

Do you know how many ver­sions there were of that myth­i­cal horned beast? Twelve! Twelve dif­fer­ent ver­sions of a Uni­corn. With light up ears, in a tutu ver­sion, as an all in one zip up hooded polyester night­mare! Swan op­tions? Zero.

In­sta­gram, was my last hope. In a way, it has be­come the mod­ern-day ver­sion of the eight­ies Rolodex… end­less con­tacts at your fingers in­stan­ta­neously. Within sec­onds of my des­per­ate plea, my in­box was rammed with sug­ges­tions and links to var­i­ous sites. Therein, lay the rub. In my des­per­a­tion and sheer rage in punch­ing out my re­quest, I had for­got­ten the specifics.

“Thank you, but she has to be a white swan.”

“A lovely pat­tern I’m sure but I don’t have a sewing ma­chine. Or hot glue gun. Or pa­tience.”

“That’s lovely but, she needs a beak and it has to be feath­ery.”

“Did you mean to send that to me? It looks a bit ‘adult’…”

I tore the wardrobe apart look­ing for any scrap of white cloth­ing. Then, I re­mem­bered that no sane par­ent fea­tures white as an op­tion to clothe their chil­dren in. My search yielded some bal­let tights and some knick­ers; nei­ther of which con­sti­tuted a full ensem­ble. Sud­denly, as if by a Christ­mas mir­a­cle, I thought of the bag of cos­tumes which I had given to my friends’ lit­tle girl: which had con­tained none other than a ver­i­ta­ble Swan Lake-es­que mask. Some dodgy an­gel wings later com­bined with some white leg­gings and a t-shirt and she was trans­formed into an ice white vi­sion…with a sub­tle un­der­tone of mangy mallard. Sud­denly, I felt the colour in my cheeks rise…

“Euan, did you get your part in the play yet?” “Yeah. I’m Gary. You know the ‘Pull like a dog!’ guy…”

Any­one know where I can get an oar?

‘My cos­tume con­sisted of ei­ther a tea towel on my head (one of the wise men) or my dress­ing gown (shep­ard)

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