If you are an Ellen DeGeneres fan, you’ll know that around Halloween Ellen takes great delight in hiding in washroom stalls and scaring the bejeepers out of her staff, audience members, and guests by jumping out at them. (If you’ve never seen it, here’s a sample.) I’m not sure what’s more amusing: the startled reactions of her victims, or the mischievous giddiness of a grown woman successfully pulling off a prank.
I saw Ellen interviewed not that long ago. She was asked how she came up with such a funny idea for a hidden camera bit, and her answer really struck me. She said, simply, “I like to play.”
“I think it’s very important to stay childlike,” she added, “and I think it’s very important to still play. Everyone stops playing when they get older.”
Of course, she’s right; there’s something to be said for tapping into this kind of levity. Who says we ever have to “grow up” completely?
Just the other night, my boyfriend Ryan and I were over at our friends’ place for dinner. While I chatted in the kitchen with the adults, sipping my red wine, Ryan disappeared downstairs with their six-year-old son. They were both mysteriously quiet, and though I’m not a mom, I know this usually means the “kids” are up to something. The boys finally reappeared about 10 minutes later dressed as Darth Vader and a storm trooper.
Ryan, who’s 29 years old, 6’0, and 193 lbs, was squeezed into their son’s tiny black karate uniform, which barely covered his shoulders and which he couldn’t pull up past his knees. This made him a rather waddle-ly Darth Vader, and his stubbly chin poked out from beneath the mask.
We all got a good laugh out of this spectacle. Poignantly, though, it was apparent that Ryan was having just as much — if not more — fun as the six year old. I say good for him for being able to crack his staid, adult façade (though I’m not sure he had one to begin with) to play dress up with the kids!
I admire Ryan for this, and I’ve always thought his playfulness was an endearing quality. Last Thanksgiving, I remember his niece asking him, “Are you ever serious? You’re not like most grown ups…”
Our friend Dave, the father of the storm trooper, is much the same way. He dresses up every Halloween — a different costume each year: Superman, Batman, Indiana Jones, etc — he puts on Alice in Wonderland tea parties for his little girl, and he makes vampire movies with the family at the summer cottage, mashing his face with raspberries for blood.
What a gift to his kids to grow up with such an animated, fun dad and have their childhood brimming with these special memories.
Dave is an effervescent, silly guy who is lot of fun to be around precisely because he hasn’t lost that childhood excitement for play. Incidentally, he’s also the mastermind behind a James Bond double-date night we’re planning where we’ll get dressed to the nines and play laser tag, followed by drinks at a jazz club. I can’t wait!
I think I personally resurrect my inner child around holidays and special occasions. Being festive is very important to me. I like to cook entirely green dinners on St. Patrick’s Day, make Ryan egg hunts with rhyming clues for Easter, throw (adult) birthday parties decorated with helium balloons, and fill our apartment with red sparkles and heart-shaped things on Valentine’s Day.
One year, Ryan complained that Valentine’s Day is cheesy, so I made him a literally cheesy Valentine’s dinner: his mom’s macaroni and cheesecake for dessert. (Match point!)
I’m not sure why holidays matter so much to me. Maybe I just enjoy funnelling my creative energy into themes… I think it runs deeper than that though. Holidays give me a homey feeling and rekindle that childhood thrill of a special day. And, really, the question shouldn’t be why celebrate, but why not? The year is already filled with many ordinary days, so why not colour a few of them with a little bit of festive delight?
There will always be naysayers who huff and puff about commercialism, and who get on their soap box with clichéd, conspiratorial theories about Hallmark, but they are party poopers who will miss out on all the fun. You should always choose to celebrate, for celebration’s sake! (Not because I have any power to decree it, but because you might actually enjoy it, if you let yourself!)
So whether it manifests as a game of dress-up (perhaps with an adult twist?), drinking green beer, or having a James Bond night, let’s take a page from Ellen and muster a little child-like playfulness. Perhaps step one is calling the sitter?
All Photos © Katie Paterson
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