Second Grade Easter Bonnet Parade
The graffiti on the wall going into the subway in Park Slope Brooklyn in 1960 was about the only kind of arts available to my then seven year old self. If there was any one in the neighborhood being supported in any kind of artistic development it was hidden so well no one ever knew? My mom, bless her soul, had not a crafty, artistic bone in her body. Maybe having six children in ten years contributed to that, but little old me wouldn’t have dreamed of asking for art supplies. Making annual Easter eggs was it until the following year.
So, when Mrs. Ahern told my second grade class there was going to be a contest on who could make the best Easter bonnet and that the school was going to open up the rollaway walls on the four adjacent classrooms for a parade so they could be judged by class parents and teachers, well, I thought I didn’t have a clue or a prayer in hell of winning.
I went home to tell my mom how embarrassed I already was at the thought of my potential bonnet. Money was non-existent, so what we had in the house was going to be the supplies I needed to use. Mom, knowing her own artistic shortcomings, came up with an idea so far out it made me think maybe, possibly maybe, I could pull something off that would let me save a little face. “Why don’t you just make a funny hat, filled with all your favorite things, and we can make it out of a cardboard box?” It was so wild, I thought I’d go for it.
So off to the scavenger hunt around the house. This would become my material. Crayons, chalk, buttons, ribbons from an old dress, candy, Sunday comic strips, balloons from an old birthday party, nail polish, and finally a couple of feathers from some pigeon we found in the park about a week before. My brothers got into the action with donated chewed up GI Joes. Baby sister Betty’s bib made the cut too. Out came the old paste jar and my bonnet came to life. Feeling really happy with myself, I let myself feel some relief.
The next morning, off to school I go. Then reality happens. All these beautiful bonnets, no doubt almost completely done by really talented mothers, show up and I am dying a slow death. They line us up and to the tune of “In your Easter bonnet.” The parade begins in the completely opened classroom. Then, as I am walking past, I notice every adult talking about my bonnet – some smiling, some laughing, but all in a nice way. Mrs. Ahern has a grin from ear to ear mouthing how proud she is of me, and I start thinking could I possibly win??
Well, this is a true story, and one of those traditional bonnets won, but something better happened. I learned that day that there are many ways to express yourself. My idea of a bonnet may not have been traditional, but it was art in the true sense of the word. It gave me confidence I didn’t possess before that day, and I know it changed me a little for the better that day.
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