Saving face

Outside Christopher House

Last Saturday I signed up for a volunteer opportunity through work. I spent the morning misunderstanding children and blowing up balloons at a local nonprofit called Christopher House on Greenview. They were holding a celebration for kids who had participated in their recent Read-A-Thon. I met some other people from my company as well as some really nice staff from Christopher House.

I volunteered to be a face painter, imagining myself effortlessly doodling smiley faces and sun beams on kids’ cheeks. It turns out it’s harder than it looks; if they don’t sit still (and they don’t) they’re likely to wind up with a long, slanted streak that has to be camouflaged to look like the plane of existence from which the flower I started out with is growing. It’s hard to make that look good. The first kid who sat in front of me wanted to be transformed into Spider Man. He did not get his wish, although in a way, he did — he walked away beaming beneath a series of black and red lines I’d scrawled from forehead to chin, making him look more like Pinhead than anything else. That’s the thing though, the kids were happy no matter what, because for unknown reasons, it was thrilling to have someone draw on their faces. With really soft crayons.

Me with a Mike Tyson face tattoo

One of the women who works for Christopher House and who doubled as my child interpreter drew a design on my face that I forgot about, until about five minutes after I left, walking toward Fullerton. I touched my face and realized my hand was smudged with purple after doing so. I could have turned around, but I was on a mission to get to the Fullerton Old Navy for $1 flip flop day. After getting Christina and me some shoes and ignoring any sideways glances, I stopped at the Starbucks next door to get an iced coffee and to have an excuse to use their bathroom to wash the paint off. I went to the register to order and a young barista stared at me.

“What is up with your face,” he said flatly, more as a statement than a question.

“I was volunteering at a kids’ carnival,” I said. “I don’t normally walk around like this.”

He shrugged.

“Wouldn’t be the first time. What can I get you?”

I headed almost immediately for the bathroom sink. And I’m really glad I did, too, because while walking home on Elston, I ran into Sarah, aka, my old cube mate and new book club friend. I looked silly enough walking in the rain with a hoodie haphazardly draped over my head, much less with a fake Mike Tyson tattoo. This town’s getting too small for me already if I can no longer go out in public looking like a crazy person. I already miss the good old days of last month.

Volunteering was fun, although if I go back I might drive. There are a lot fewer buses running on Saturday mornings and I was almost late. Also, I’d love it if there was an Elston bus. I’d probably use it almost as much as the Belmont one.

Things have been moving pretty quickly this week, between work and doing Patch assignments in the evenings. May has set a new record for number of newspaper assignments I’ve done in a month, with six stories so far. If I cover Niles’ Memorial Day parade I’ll hit seven. I really like writing and doing video for them and I’m glad they hired me so soon after I moved here. It’s been a fun way to get to know my way around.

My poor, first-ever face painting victim. So lucky he's smiling after this.

4 thoughts on “Saving face

  1. I used to face paint at events for the preschool where worked when we first moved out here. I was just as relieved as you to find that the kids were over the moon just to have something, anything really, on their face. The first kid must always have ambitious requests because mine wanted an elephant on his cheek, which ended up looking like an unfortunate large blue mass of balloons, but he freaking loved it! I knew it could only get better after that. By the way, that picture of the kid together with your link to pinhead made me laugh so hard I almost cried.

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