Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Queen for a Day

A woman savors the glory of being crowned Queen for a Day.
When I was a young child, there was a television show called Queen for a Day. Clutching my sippie cup, I would watch as housewives in horn-rimmed glasses and aprons competed like nobody's business to be crowned Queen for a Day so they could win new kitchen appliances. They competed by telling the most heart-rending tale of woe about their lives that they could muster. The most pathetic storyteller would win. It always ended with a crying matron being crowned, robed and handed a bouquet of roses—the women off to the side trying not to look too bitter. I guess you could call this the precursor to reality television. Needless to say, this show would probably be a tad politically incorrect these days. But my mother's generation enjoyed watching it. We, after all, are a nation of competitors, whether housewives, business people or athletes.

Then, there's another form of competition....

Nothing says Halloween like a freak blizzard.
My mother lives in an assisted living facility. Every year they have a Halloween party where the residents—ages 80 to 100-plus—compete with the ferocity of the Olympics to win prizes for the best costumes. This year, my mother chose to be Cleopatra. We bought a size large sequenced gown along with a very impressive black wig, cut with the distinctive Cleopatra bangs. Even at 85, Mom is still a party girl at heart and knows how to have a good time.

I took the day off from work so I could help her dress for the event, and due to an unseasonal blizzard a few days before, which knocked out electricity where my husband works, he came along as well. I had been too busy that day to dress in costume, but Steve donned his batman outfit, figuring he could blend in with the residents. They were quite pleased to see a "young man" come dressed in costume. He posed for several pictures with his bat wings outstretched, enjoying the attention.

Tenacious G rules the Nile at Victoria Mews assisted living.
Mom had actually gotten most of her costume on by the time we had arrived. She just needed help with the velcro in the back. Also, I tucked back some wisps of telltale gray hair that were trying to assert themselves out from under her black wig.

The festivities began with the residents walking or riding their motorized wheelchairs along the hallways to show off their Halloween personas. They ranged from a pirate brandishing his sword as he trundled along in his wheelchair to a hippie grandma on a walker donning long blond hair and psychedelic clothing. Then everyone sat in an upstairs meeting room for hot cider, crudites and candy.

An elderly gentlemen dressed in bright red long underwear offered live music with songs he belted out on his saxophone.  He played "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to a green witch and a number of classic tunes from the 1940s.

Free, live sax from an old Italian man.
The recreational director was snapping photos of everyone. When she was done, she projected them on a large screen so everyone could see themselves and their fellow residents on the Big Screen. I also took a few choice photos, which I share with you here.

Pat, owner of VM, told dirty jokes, poodle in hand.
The judges walked around the room thoughtfully reviewing this year's entries. Finally, it was time to announce the winners. A green witch in a motorized wheelchair won for the scariest costume. Her daughter had come earlier in the day to dress her and paint her face green with dark circles under the eyes. A woman wearing a mask of an old man with a cigar in his mouth won for the funniest costume. And finally—and I saw my mother, lips pursed, waiting expectantly with hopes of glory—the most original costume was awarded to the resident who had dressed like Cleopatra. Mom jumped up and grasped a $5 gift certificate to the facility's on-site general store.

Then the owner of Victoria Mews—a senior citizen himself—began telling dirty jokes that surprised even Steve and me. None of the grandmothers or grandfathers celebrating the day seemed to mind. Some of them looked like they might be dozing off anyway.

Mom clutched her certificate, satisfied, that this year she had captured the prize for her costume. Cleopatra had achieved the status of Queen for a Day.

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