Behind the Mask

Part of what I love about working at an elementary school is that contagious feeling of excitement that’s always in the air.  It’s hard to describe, and you DO feel it when you attend functions as a parent.  But you especially feel it as a staff member….at least at our school you do.  There is an effervescence about the kids.  You see it at recess, during special assemblies, and especially at the last day of school Field Day.

And yet, there is a seedier side to this effusion of glee and giddiness.  A side of some children that most parents will never see.  If they do see it, they tend to look away and pretend they don’t.

I’m talking about the view from inside the suit.  The Raccoon suit, that is.

Several times during the school year I volunteer to suit up as Rocky the Raccoon, our school’s mascot, and hit the blacktop.  Nothing makes you feel more like a rock star than having swarms of effervescent kids crowd around you and ask for your autograph or a high five.  It only adds to the fun that I’ve done this off and on for the past four years, and not ONE kid has discovered my secret. 
I’ll admit that it does burst my bubble when many of the students guess that I’m one of the male teachers.  Or someone’s dad.  I like it better when they guess that I’m the very young female science teacher.  Obviously they can’t see ANY part of my body, or she wouldn’t even be in the running.

So as the school year ended this past June, of course I was ready to do my part for God and country the principal and the kids.

I squeezed into the furry suit, lassoed my big head of hair into a scrunchy, and crammed my noggin into the oversized raccoon head.  I headed out to the playground, which was a patchwork of carnival games, excited students, and camera-toting parents.  These were my people.  I was immediately surrounded by kids jumping up and down, parents requesting a Kodak moment, and kindergartners wanting a hug.

After about half an hour of high fives, photo ops and autographs (yeah, it’s a challenge with the mittens and poor visibility) I am feeling pretty effervescent myself.  Like someone dressed as a raccoon should be.  Kind of like a rock star.

Until I see them.  The group of 4th and 5th grade boys.

There is a certain gleam in their beady little eyes that causes my morning coffee to make a brief appearance back in my throat.  They start moving towards me.  “Hey Rocky!  Over here!” they shout, as I pat a kindergartner on the head and wish I could dig a hole like a real raccoon.  Or that I was Catholic, because Catholic schools probably don’t have a Raccoon mascot.

And then they surround me.

They try and look up under my mask, yelling to each other, “Hey, I see someone in there!” like they actually THOUGHT I was a real raccoon.  Then they start grabbing my tail, which I can’t actually see because there is literally NO peripheral vision in the head part of the costume. 

Pretty soon I am feeling like a Coach bag on the 80% off table at Nordstrom.  Like a cat smeared in bacon dropped off at the dog park.

It’s hard to run in the suit, but I push through the small crowd, waving as I go, and pick up speed as I head towards the buildings.  The costume has seen better days, and it’s a challenge to keep the mangy-looking booties on while walking.  So walking becomes more like ambling.  Limping, sometimes.

Around me are all sorts of happy parents, chatting with each other and enjoying the free coffee and donuts that are always a part of field day.  Most of them are probably lamenting that tomorrow will be the first day of summer, and wondering “What will I do with the kids??”

What could you do with them NOW, I wonder, since nobody seems to notice the horde of children (no longer effervescent; more like militant) continuing to follow me.

And then, like an angel sent straight from above, I see her.  I make a beeline towards one of the Special Ed aides, who most likely deals with things like this all day.  I sidle up next to her and say “help me” in a very quiet voice (because, raccoons don’t talk….duh).  She startles and asks “Who is that??” and when I tell her she asks if I need an escort.

Whew.

She shoos the boys away, scolds a few more when they pull my tail, and has my back (and tail) for the remainder of field day.  Which makes it so much easier to get back to the business of being a raccoon; patting cute kids on the head, writing illegible autographs, smiling for pictures, and giving high fives.

Which helps me forget the seedier side of kids.  At least, until next time.

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This post is linked up to Word Up, YO!, which is masterminded by KLZ, Natalie, and Liz; The Word of the Week is:

Effervescent

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Comments

  1. The thought of you in a raccoon suit makes me smile! That is so admirable and cool of you to do that each year for the little ones. You told the day so well, I was hooked in! I'm so glad you found a friend to help you out πŸ™‚

  2. Alyson -- Common Sense, Dancing says:

    Wow. Do you get hazard pay or an extra vacation day? I was thinking that would be well deserved….if only because I can only imagine the *smell* inside that suit. (Not implying that you have any hygiene issues….just thinking that a large mammal costume might promote some serious sweating.)

    You are a great sport!

  3. Mrs. Fine says:

    Wow! I'm still getting over the fact that someone at some point chose a raccoon as the mascot. Interesting choice, I say! Kudos to you for suiting up!!

  4. fifth grade boys can smell fear, stand tall and show you are the alpha raccoon!

  5. Ms. Understood says:

    Awww . . . sorry about the ordeal. What jerks. I know "boys will be boys" and blah blah blah, but there really is no excuse for bad behavior. You are a great sport for being the mascot. You definitely deserve an extra day off.

  6. Love the Coach bag reference! Gina's comment cracked me up and having laughing out loud. I think it's awesome that you suit up to do it, even though you know what to expect πŸ˜‰

  7. Wow…I don't know if I would be willing to suit up…you're braver than I am! Kids are crazy when parents aren't looking!

  8. Booyah's Momma says:

    Your similes are the best! A cat smeared in bacon at the dog park. Wow. I hope this hasn't scarred you from playing Rocky again. Sounds like you're a good sport!

  9. that is hilarious! Now you know why those people dressed up as characters at Disney or Six Flags ALWAYS have a handler/bouncer with them πŸ™‚

  10. Bethany @ Organic Enchilada says:

    I kept wondering why the principal didn't send you out with a body guard to begin with!! That's really good of you to do though.

    If only those fifth grade boys knew that raccoons have rabies…

  11. An effervescent raccoon! Whodathunkit?! I love that you are a mascot, and thank goodness for that aide!

    Lousy 5th grade boys!

  12. motivationmamadrama says:

    My favorite part of the day is dropping my son off at school. All the buzz and laughter of the children makes me happy. What a brave sport you are!! The coach reference was greatness!

  13. And there you have the reason why all of the characters at theme parks have non-costumed escorts! (4th and 5th graders it's sort of expected that they'll be punks sometimes, but sadly there are quite a few grown adults that would heckle a mascot also)

  14. The Empress says:

    I love that excitement in the air!!

  15. Wow. You are one brave woman for volunteering to be a racoon! I agree — you should get hazard pay πŸ™‚

  16. Funky Mama Bird says:

    Oh man. I'm sorry, but I can't help laughing just a little. And I agree; you are seriously brave for even considering wearing that costume!