My good friend Sandra Nickel posted on Facebook that Squirrel Appreciation Day was January 21. I hope you were kind to a squirrel. I have a Scaredy Squirrel hand puppet, so I pulled it out of hibernation and took pictures of it to show my support of the day. Anything for a cause. But even without the excuse of Squirrel Appreciation Day, the day seemed tailor made for a Hand Puppet Day.
What’s a Hand Puppet Day? It’s a day when I’m feeling trwxhrlw—a word I made up that’s really just a grunt to convey how desperately in need of change I am—a good change though, not like a sudden temperature drop; I’ve had enough of those. (It’s minus one right now.) It’s a day when I’m tired of worrying about whether I measure up or who I might be letting down.
It’s also a social experiment day—a day to shake things up. I do that every now and then. Like the day I roamed around Michigan Avenue in Chicago wearing a Hello Kitty backpack, just to see if anyone would ask me about it. Several kids stared, whether out of envy or confusion, I wasn’t sure. It’s also like the time I went to work a few years ago, wearing a tall Goofy hat from Disney World. As was the case with the Hello Kitty backpack, no one commented.
So, yes, I’m an adult with a Scaredy Squirrel hand puppet who isn’t afraid to use it. (If you’re not sure who that is, Scaredy Squirrel is a character in this picture book by Mélanie Watt.)
When I was in grad school, I brought a different Scaredy Squirrel picture book to school each semester. Outside of the program (writing for children and young adults), such behavior would probably result in a raised eyebrow or two. But on a day like Hand Puppet Day, even if I got the raised eyebrow, I don’t have to care.
You see, on Hand Puppet Day, it’s okay to embrace your weirdness. It’s okay to let yourself off the hook and silence the voice whispering that you’re not measuring up somehow. On Hand Puppet Day, it’s okay to throw out the measuring stick.
For some reason, this reminds me of a quote from Moonstruck, the 1987 film written by John Patrick Shanley, who won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. It’s one of my favorite films ever. Unfortunately, I can’t avoid a spoiler, so feel free to skip over this paragraph. One of the characters, Ronny Cammareri (played by Nicolas Cage) is kind of an odd duck. Hand Puppet Days were made for him. One odd day, Ronny falls for his brother’s fiancée, Loretta (played by Cher). Ronny tells Loretta:
Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn’t know this either, but love don’t make things nice—it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren’t here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die.
That might seem like an odd quote out of context. And don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating a homewrecking relationship. But it reminds me that the human experience isn’t always neat or cookie cutter or status quo. Life sometimes is a mess. Some days we wake up feeling trwxhrlw. I think of that quote, because on a day like Hand Puppet Day, I realize I’m not “here to make things perfect,” even if I have the delusion that perfection can be achieved. I’m here to live and to brandish a hand puppet every now and then.
Do yourself a favor: declare today a Hand Puppet Day! You don’t have to have a hand puppet. Just embrace who you are—all your wonderful quirks. Hope to see you on Michigan Avenue. I’ll be the one with the Hello Kitty backpack.
In preparation for my ice cream give away, please comment below with the answer to the question, “Where do you get your ice cream/yogurt?” Baskin-Robbins? Culver’s? Dairy Queen? Oberweis Dairy? Other?