After Halloween, JJ Vincent turns into a living canvas for a group of local kids. Have you ever painted a pirate?
The After-boo Party is an annual tradition within our local knitting group. It started several years ago as the brainstorm of one very clever mother. Usually held a week or two after Halloween, it gives kids and adults a chance to wear their costumes again and have a party will all of the bells and whistles, purchased at 50-80% off. If you walked it, it would look like a perfectly normal evening – a batch of kids assorted ages running amok with one sitting quietly reading and another fixated on turning the TV on and off and on and off and on and off.
And then they descend on the living room tugging on sleeves and pestering their parents, “When do we get to paint the pirate?” Because the alternate name for this event is the “Paint the Pirate” Party.
I’m the Pirate.
Trust me when I say that you have not until you’ve been the canvas for 10 children wielding face paint, painting crayons, watercolors, and chocolate.
This started with the first party. They needed cheap entertainment and group participation, so it was decided that any grownup who didn’t come in costume would have to get their face painted. As you can probably guess, the adults who work in high-level military, defense, and corporate jobs were less than enthusiastic about this. Traces of blue paint can linger for days.
I’m lucky to work in a place where, from October through December, it’s not uncommon to see people with bits of zombie hanging off them, or wearing full St. Nick garb, or sitting at their desk wearing a full-head alien wolf mask.
So I “pirated up” and volunteered. I would come “without my costume”, the hostess would “punish me” by dressing me up as a pirate (shorts, sleeveless shirt, bare feet, sash, bandanna, hat…a rather ne’er do well rogue) and the kids would carry out the sentence of face painting. Now, would you have faith in a number of screaming, sugar-amped childrens’ ability to target only your face with little teeny paint brushes? Neither would I.
There are some spur-of-the-moment decisions that leave you wondering what you were thinking. My decision announced as,”Ok, kids. If you can see the skin, you can paint the skin. Arms, legs, face, neck, hands, feet. 5 minutes. GO.”
Those of you who spend time with children, I’ll give you a moment to ponder this. I’ll also add that I am 5’4″ and 125 pounds. And did I mention 10 children?
In those five minutes, I learned how far kid-arms can reach, how many ways they can bend themselves, how the 5-year-old on the outside can stick a brush up your nose, how two of them can move with ninja stealth and speed to an opening too small for a chihuaua and blitz your knees, how their utter and complete lack of inhibition leads to you wonder how that green fingerprint got in your right ear.
In under 5 minutes, I was 80% painted. Their reward for a job well done was a treasure hunt. Mine was watching my adult friends trying to recover from hysterical laughter. At least one learned that they should not eat or drink while the pirate is being painted, and they would be well advised to stand clear of the festivities. Way clear.
Fast forward to Saturday, November 9th, 2013 night. This year was a little bit different. There was no face paint. There were paint crayons. Clothing and hair were inbounds. And I don’t think Lady Hostess’s cream-colored carpet will ever be the same again.
And yes, you read the date right.
Did I neglect to mention how much utter and complete fun it is to be The Pirate? To see a bunch of kids in the pure joy of the novelty of getting to paint and draw on a grown-up? To be a live action coloring book, with one kid making meticulous stokes of turquiose, another making little green hash marks, another (who ages into assistant-hood next year) carefully draw troll-faces, and one writing his name only, mildly peeved that his dad had forbidden him from writing and drawing “poop” on me. This year, they got to paint the hair, the shirt, and the shorts, too. Broken crayons? No problem. That just gave two to each kid. Only one pan of paints and applicator? That’s what fingers are for.
The gift of novelty is an awesome thing. It’s worth 30 minutes of cleanup with a scour pad and a few cups of dishsoap to know what these kids are going to tell about when they go to school on Monday.
The novelty has not worn off for the grown-ups, either. I’m the only childless one, so it’s possible that their enthusiasm for this may be some sort of subconscious payback. It’s certainly a source of amusement, and near panic when The Pirate calls 5 minutes after the party starts to tell the hostess he’s on his way…and later finds out the the phone call caused the room to go dead silent.
Don’t worry, kids. The Pirate will not disappoint.
And Adam, next year, you can write “poop” on me all you want.
Photos courtesy of author