Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Gingerbread Incident

It was a joyful and sometimes raucous family Christmas at Uncle Jerry and Aunt Nancy's house in idyllic Orange Beach, Alabama (sort of a red-neck Margaritaville). With a house full of kids hopped up on turkey and christmas candy, the situation was growing dangerously volatile.

The chaotic opening of the presents was set to begin in a few minutes when a conspiratorial whisper reached me: "Have you heard about The Costume?" Intrigued, I followed Aunt Che into the laundry room. In one corner something bulky and brown sat bulging from a plastic bag: The Costume.

In spite of my well-known maturity and dignified behavior, my relatives somehow chose me to wear The Costume to liven up the party.

And what a costume it was! Here was a huge, full-body Gingerbread Man foam suit. As soon as I saw it, I knew that this was going to be awesome, embarassing, and memorable.

With Shannon's help I crammed my holiday food-enhanced frame into the suit like a cat trying to jam into a shoe box with fur and catmeat bowing out the sides. I started sweating in the heavy foam suit. I practiced my Gingerbread Man falsetto. It was almost showtime.

My stomach fluttered nervously. This was a dangerous assignment. I could hear the shrieks and roars of the sugar-addled children out in the main room. Like sharks in a frenzy at a stricken fish, the kids were nearly frantic with present-opening coming so soon.

Also, it's a well-known fact that violence against people in full-body costumes is a growing problem today. Wearing a giant costume somehow dehumanizes the fragile human within, and people, especially children, lash out violently. I've seen enough episodes of America's Funniest Videos to know what was going to happen. I won't go into the details, but I was certain that I would be punched somewhere that would help get my Gingerbread voice to the right octave. Still, I soldiered on and lurched out into the room.

The next minutes are a blur to me. The bulky suit muffled and distorted outside sounds. The eye-holes in the head of the costume had shifted so that my vision was limited to a tiny window.

I danced. I squealed in my best Gingerbread Falsetto. I handed cookies to the kids. I even chased poor, terrified Bama (the dog). The Costume was a hit based on the laughter I could hear. So I continued to stagger around the room.

It was starting to get hot, and the time was right to exit stage left. The grand finale was a crazed, frenetic dance: part running man / part Bird of Paradise mating ritual. The anonymity of the costume led me to dance in ways I would never, ever attempt in a public situation. The spirit of the Gingerbread Man took over.

When the dance was completed, I collapsed to the floor. Show over. This was not a smart move. The children surrounded me, like curious onlookers approaching a crash-landed alien.

Suddenly, WHAM! A crushing blow landed on my face from above.

The children had surrounded the now supine Gingerbread man. Sensing weakness, my cousin had done her best professional wrestler impression. She had leapt skyward, tucking her little knees under and transforming into a lethal hammer of doom.

She definitely stuck the landing. This was my cue to exit. I staggered away to the laundry room to get out of the costume and assess the damage. My head was pounding and a potential shiner was forming on my right cheekbone.

It wasn't that bad though. The hardness of my head and the foam padding of the suit saved me.
I had a blast cutting loose as the Gingerbread Man, and I hope it becomes a family tradition. Next time I'll stay on my feet and keep my guard up.


Anonymous said...

We can only pray for the Spirit of Gingerbread Man to possess us all.

Chris said...

I can definitely recommend it. Just exercise extreme caution around children and animals.

Sarah said...

I'm thrilled that there is photo documentation of this fantastic holiday event. The only thing that could make me happier?? VIDEO. Alas.