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.
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.
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.