When I was twelve, my mom decided that we, as a family, should learn to square dance. I’m not sure exactly where the idea came from, but I was such a nerd that I actually agreed to attend lessons with her – something she didn’t get my dad to do right away.
As hard as it is to believe today, square dancing used to be fairly common in this country. In fact, it experienced a bit of a renaissance in the 1940s and 1950s, due primarily to a resurgence of folk and country music and a fascination with the cowboy culture in the western states. By the time we started dancing in the 1980s, it was already well into its downward slide as far as popular cultural activities are concerned. There are still a few dances in the valley, but, overall, square dancing is unlikely to be revived within my lifetime.
The reason I bring up this aspect of my adolescence at all is because Halloween is fast approaching. In fact, Dan and I are supposed to attend a costume party tonight – though we have no costumes to wear. This is actually the first costume party I’ve been invited to since my family’s square-dancing days. Thinking about the Halloween dances reminded me of my mom, who is an amazing seamstress.
You see, when I was young, my mom always made my costumes. I could be just about anything I wanted, except for anything store-bought. I had a witch’s costume, a princess costume, a bunny costume…but never a rubber mask. By the time I reached twelve, I was pretty sure that having a home-sewn costume was lame. Of course, I was wrong, but tweens and teens always think they know best.
My mom, freed from costume duty where I was concerned, focused her creativity on costumes for herself and my dad. She dressed my 6’4” dad as the Pink Panther one year. But I remember the Donald and Daisy Duck costumes the best. The body was made out of felt, I think. The stuffed heads engulfed their entire heads, leaving only their faces exposed. The beaks stuck out over them like the rims of baseball caps. Their shoes were covered by orange-felt duck feet. But the best part of all were the tights. Remember, my dad is very tall. My mother searched the valley high and low for a pair of tights that would fit him. I honestly don’t have any idea where she found them! Once she did, though, she dyed them orange and convinced Dad to put them on. Best costume ever!
At the dance, my normally reserved father actually duck-walked. Someone was quick enough with the camera that we have a picture of the moment. What I wouldn’t give for the chance to go back and take a video, though.
As fate would have it, I eventually went to Cottey College – which happens to have the duck as its senior mascot. I talked my mom into giving me the costumes, both of which were turned into senior pass-downs. I like to think they are still in circulation today – but they could have been trashed long ago for all I know.
But I’ll always have the memory of my parents waddling off to a square dance in matching orange tights.