When I was in elementary school, I sat alphabetically in front of Joy McElhinny in nearly every class from Kindergarten through fifth grade. In my opinion, Joy was the complete package: smart, funny, a gymnast (I was the Amazon in the back row of all the pictures), and the perennial winner of the most original, homemade Halloween costume. Clearly her parents loved her more than mine loved me. I was Tweety Bird for my first eight years of life; Joy’s mom wrote sweet messages on the peel of her banana.
Two of Joy’s costumes are forever etched in my scrapbook of childhood memories. In third grade in Miss O’Reilly’s class, Joy dressed for the Halloween parade as a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, her cherubic face encapsulated by paper-mache, ground beef. In fifth grade, the McElhinnys brought their A-game, and dressed the diminutive Joy as a box of movie theater popcorn. I was, again, Tweety Bird.
The costume was one for the ages, a HUGE red and white striped refrigerator box (judging by Joy’s costumes, the McElhinnys must have bought a new refrigerator every October) topped with REAL popcorn. She was the talk of McClellan Elementary School, and rightfully so. For the rest of the fifth grade class, festooned in old bedsheets and fake blood, Joy made the Halloween parade feel more like a walk of shame…until the unthinkable happened.
You see, there was a design flaw in the popcorn box. NO ARMHOLES! As we were coming around the bus circle on the final stretch of the parade, Joy tripped over the speed bump and face planted on the asphalt. NO ARMHOLES! Wonder what her banana peel read the next day at lunch? “Dear, Joy, Sorry about the costume. Glad the dentist was able to extract all of your teeth from the inside of your lips. Love, Mom.”
The fifth grade class was traumatized, not only for witnessing Joy’s painful fall–and her fall from Halloween grace, but in knowing that Joy’s trick-or-treating prospects were looking pretty dim. No candy for Joy.
You can imagine our…joy, when little Joy rose from the ashes like
a phoenix The Great Pumpkin. That Halloween, Joy ate her candy with her back teeth. She was one tough broad.
Moral of the story: This Halloween, don’t let Frankenstorm rain on your Halloween parade. Buck up, little ones, just like Popcorn Joy did. Grab a pillow case and an umbrella and run like hell. Get your sticky little hands on a Category 5 candy haul.
Just make sure you have armholes.
I am laughing so hard — I am crying!!! Mainly because I REMEMBER this so vividly!!!!
I think you need to realize that Halloween is being postponed until Saturday in PH — so get that Tweety Bird costume out of storage and let your little one pass on the tradition!
I think of this moment in slow motion. Were you there, Mrs. Tima? Jeffrey will be around PH on Saturday dressed like a chicken. It actually looks like the mangy Tweety costume!
A day I remember well!!!!! Poor Joy was dipping cookies in milk to make them softer for the next several months. I also remember another of Joy’s fantastic costumes – she was a clown inside a car – it was great!!! I only wish I could be so creative for my children; alas, both kids have Party City costumes this year 😦
Joy=Halloween to me. Not a year goes by that I don’t share the story of the speed bump. At least your Halloween shortcomings will spur your kids creative spirit for years to come. And, at least they’ll have all their teeth 🙂
Molly and Michelle–you guys are bringing me ‘joy’! 🙂 Wanted to share this one with you–I had told the Popcorn Joy story to a college friend years ago–she responded by giving me a poster-size picture of a ‘Caution Speed Bump’ sign! 🙂
I can’t tell you how many of our classmates relived this moment with me. The horror that you weren’t going to be able to trick or-treat was too much for our 10-year-old hearts to bear. It is so wonderful hearing from you, and all of our childhood friends. Thanks for being the BEST SPORT EVER!!! Use your armholes, sister 🙂
Love it and I am dressing as tweety bird this year..still have the costume…
I loved reading the article about Joy. Her mother was very creative, something I wasn’t. I laughed at what happened, but it wasn’t funny for Joy. Ask my daughter what she wore to a Halloween party a few nights ago. You will be amazed. Trick or treating has been postponed in most communities till Saturday.
Thank you Molly–you made my day!! I am still laughing about your article! 🙂 A few memories to share–after the doc dug the pebbles out of my lip and despite the huge bandage on my chin–I made it Trick or Treating–although it sounded more like I said–“Tick o Tweet”–I said that in honor of you as Tweety! 🙂 I did actually have an armhole, but the question remains–why didn’t I use it?! Lol! And my update, some 20+ years later–all of my teeth are real and intact…I have a scar on my chin from meeting the pavement that I am so proud of…and I’m working hard to carry on the legacy of my parent’s Halloween creativity…I just need to buy a new refrigerator with the box! 🙂 Love your articles and thanks again for the laugh and smile! 🙂
I just remembered one other memory–during the parade Mrs. Trombetta carried my can of Parmesan cheese!! Lol! Definitely a sign of a wonderful teacher! 🙂
I share this story with all of my students everytime they are fooling around and putting thier arms in thier shirts. I remember it like it was yesterday!
Joy is STILL saving lives!
Thanks Molly–you give me too much credit! Lol! 🙂 Erin, your story made me smile–if you ever want me to make a ‘guest appearance’ in your classroom just let me know–I’d love to come! 🙂
Always enjoy reading your stories Molly. This one really made me smile just thinking of you all back in grade school, and all the fun memories. I’l have to mention this to Robin, but hopefully she will read the story. Our family loved Halloween and have lots of good memories 🙂
Thanks, Mrs. Shanafelt 🙂 I’ll never forget Robin’s birthday at South Park Skating Rink and sleepovers at your house. I can write so vividly about these memories because our families gave us such great childhoods. Thanks you so much for that.
Where has the time gone? It’s mind blowing to see and share our own parenting stories. Who’d have thought?
What a pleasure that my mother sent this my way. I too remember the “popcorn down” right there on the elementary circle. You were so close, Joy. I think Mr. Cook changed up the rules for costumes the following year, but Tweety Bird still made the cut. Joy’s mother was amazing. I remember being so envious of their wooden station wagon. It had two bench seats facing one another in the back, so you could see your friends. She would play cassettes like, strawberry shortcake, barbie, you know all the girl stuff. I couldn’t wait to go for a ride. My mom smoked with the windows up…sorry mom. Molly, you were always Mr. K’s prize handwriting student. Your work hung on the wall each month for the best cursive. I don’t think you ever missed a single month. You have always had a gift for writing and creativity even then when we were learning how to make cameras with Oatmeal boxes. It is only fitting that you would be able to share your strengths then and into the technological day of blogging. Keep em coming, b/c we are reading!!
Thank you, thank you, thank you. You think Mrs. McElhinny would adopt a couple of 30-somethings and their kids? I remember the “curling iron” coverup. Every was sure it was Chris Miller. Remember when you got married at lunchtime recess? You guys still together?
Sure Molly–we can get rolling on the adoption papers if you’d like…we’ve already got the matching Mc letters. haha! 🙂 But I remember your Mom always threw you great birthday parties for you–fun times in June! 🙂
Thanks Robin! And you’re right–Molly you have such a gift for writing–I needed to hire you when I was in grad school! 🙂 Oh my gosh–the Oatmeal box cameras–loved that–what a great memory!
I got married twice…Marc Mayer and Andy something. He turned into a hippy and i believe continues to follow the dead around the world…he is unaware of Garcia’s passing at the young age of 53 and hopes for some type of return. He just won’t accept Phish as a replacement. He stole his grandmothers ring to give to me and Mr. Cook was so mad. We all had to go to the principals office. Marc just gave me a cracker box ring. Betsy Star married Doug Smoyer that very same moment at lunchtime recess. Hell, if he asked, I’d marry Doug today…you still got your neighborhood in with him? So, no my marriages real and fiction have miserably failed, but third time is a charm…whatever that means:) Miss you Molly. I have to get to Pgh, oh the fun we would have trying to be 21 again…I think we can do it, Chuck said he’s in.
Good call! That was it!