Charlie Brown

I adjusted my mask, wiping a bead of condensation off my upper lip with my tongue before settling it back in place. I felt my eyelashes flutter against the mask’s eye slits and began to count my blinks to pass the time.

“Oh look, it’s Charlie Brown,” Becky giggled. “Who’s in there? Is that you Josh? Mike?”

“It’s Sara,” came my muffled reply.

“Sara? I never would have guessed that! Why are you dressed as Charlie Brown? You should be a princess like the rest of us!” Becky squealed. I saw a flutter of glittery blue material as she twirled in front of me and felt a soft bop on my head before her twinkling wand broke into my line of vision.

I scratched the seams inside my shirt. The material felt rough, hot, and suddenly uncool.

“I hate Halloween,” I mumbled as I turned away and made my way to the back of the alphabetical line. Soon we would parade through the school to show off our costumes.

I shuffled shyly between Mark and Stacy through classroom after classroom listening to kids and teachers comment on various costumes. None of them were mine.

“I’m never dressing up again,” I whispered.

And I didn’t.

Until recently.

“We should get family photos,” my husband said one night, “to show our new blended family.”

I pictured the standard Montana family photo with a denim-clad family standing in a field using the mountains as a backdrop and wrinkled my nose.

“I don’t know babe,” I replied, “I’m game if we do something unique and different; everyone does the same thing here.”

“I’m up for whatever fun thing you come up with,” came his reply. “You will think of something. I know it.” I watched him fire off a quick email to a photographer friend before he settled in and fell asleep.

I lay awake in the light of Pinterest’s glow, scrolling with indecision and the pressure to find the right idea.

“What if you wore costumes?” came an errant thought hours later.

“I hate costumes.” I answered myself.

“Maybe it’s time to stop letting an old memory keep your fearful. Be brave.” the niggling thought pushed back.

“I suppose,” I admitted.

A few weeks later we stood in a graffiti-covered parking garage, steampunk costumes on, laughing together. From my top hat, to my gear accessories, to my fake leather pants and cane, I was completely out of my element.

“This is fun,” my stepson said, adjusting his mask.

“Yeah, good idea Sara,” my stepdaughter seconded. I smiled at them.

“Now, just pop your hip out Sara. Own it. Add a little flare, get into character,” called the photographer, bringing me back to the task at hand.

Her lights flashed, highlighting the word ‘thug’ scrawled in pink spray paint on the wall near me. I focused my gaze back at the camera.

“What the heck,” I said leaning on my cane and popping my hip to the side. “I’ll do it for you guys…and Charlie Brown.”

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