...my world's on fire, how 'bout yours?/ that's the way I like it and I never get bored....
Opening Weekend Maryland Renaissance Festival 2004
Welcome Back, Mimi
Opening Day is brilliant, brutal. We drive onto site, past the Designated Patrons, dressing in costumes beside their cars an hour before gates open. “Remind me what ‘designated’ means, Mama?” my son enquires. I explain. “Who designated them to be patrons, Mama, Carolyn?” No, darling. They designate themselves, bless their hearts and pocketbooks.
By my start time at 10:30, I am damp and burning in the sun. Enter the grounds, excited beyond excited. I pass the magnificent thighs of Peter Gross, just at pinchable level as he stands on a bench. He slaps my hand, blushing a bit. I begin with bubbles on the front gate wall, as is my custom, and am rewarded with exuberant greetings from folk I do not know. The one person I recognize does not see me. He does not look up. I think perhaps he can’t.
I love this man, the Crooked Finger Man, who over the years has become more and more hunched. I posed with him, at Mike Higby’s request, on stilts with a huge wooden sword, and this was the first time we'd met. Ten years ago? More? Possibly. This tall elder stood proudly as I “knighted” him. Something has gradually crunched him into a question mark. He has the noble distinction of having the unique ability to take a bad picture of Mimi or Gigi. His enthusiasm is matched by his generosity, for he always brings a set of prints to distribute to the subjects of his photographic endeavors, so Ginny and I are dubiously blessed by numerous so-so shots of ourselves in action.
It was Ginny’s thought, inspired by my white Gelsomina costume from Moresca, topped by a fabulous feathered hat by Debra at Dragon Wings, (mentioned in this article ) that we should present the four of us, all in ivory, white and gold, as a special visual spectacle.
As it is imagined, so it shall be done.
She takes costume pieces I have collected and trims them into gorgeous creations, to compliment a wonderful wingy satin and organza cloak she’s made from my collection of fabrics. I head to the costume house, already in Gelsomina, to find a tiny white-faced troupe of cherubim. Alaina is angelic, and Garrett is charming. Ginny stilts up, is breathtaking. I am tickled with the three-quarters of us that I can see. I can’t get far enough away from us for the full effect, but the reaction as we parade, solemnly blessing the village, is astounding. We are a hit.
We have time enough, post-parade, for MimeLunch before I set up for Mimi Flambe. We choose our spot as much for shade and comfort as for aesthetic value. We feed grapes, strawberries, bits of apple to passing patrons. My knife is dull, must ask at Heineke’s booth if someone will sharpen it for me.
Mimi Flambe goes well. Our crowd contains my writer-friend Cynthia Polansky from MWA, and Pam, one of the agents from Cast of Thousands. Though we’ve had less rehearsal than I’d have liked, we make only minor mistakes, one of which Fluffy notices and mentions post-show, as we stilt up for walkabout. This is Lili’s (say Lee-Lee, to rhyme with Mimi and Gigi) performance debut on stilts. She wears a pair of butter-colored pants that were until Friday morning a pair of curtains. She is natural, in constant wordless conversation with her audience. Of course, it helps that her reception is unanimously positive. We wander to the Boar’s Head. I need to sit already.
(After rehearsing with Ginny on Friday at the site, I discovered that I was up to less action than I’d hoped. The hurricane wandering around our general vicinity has snaked barometric tentacles into my joints and I hurt all over. I am unaccustomed to the heat, the humidity. I’ve become wussy. Quite disappointing. Still, I’m been up on stilts and am more solid, though less energetic, than I had anticipated. Mimi returns, limping.)
Gypsophilia plays the Boar’s Head. Can I resist dancing? I cannot. It’s good. I am myself. The children are ready to continue, and last longer than we’d expected. A young gallant comes after us- we’re not hard to spot, or to catch up with- to present me with a pair of gloves I’d dropped at the pub, with a polite yet friendly bow. Lovey mime kisses for his thoughtfulness.
Gigi and I head out a deux when the youngsters have had enough, leaving them to relax in MimeCamp. She stays with me another half hour, until her shift is over. She’s been on stilts twice already today and is wiped, toast, outta here...leaving me on my own, on stilts, for the first time in…two years? I think. What shall I do?
I do what I always do: play with the people. Walk over them, steal babies and sips of beer, flirt, preen, sneak, tap, rub, shimmy, curtsey, shake, lift, adore, glow. There I go again, getting away with what I get away with. Advantage: white makeup, for it permits people to allow me to touch beyond touching.
Come down, then, after more than an hour. Grab the mini-Mimis and head off in search of treats, holding the tails of one another’s hats, elephant-style. Ice cream for Lili, cookies with milk for Max. Victor’s girls create that sensual cool concoction, Iced Cappucino, for me, and we sit together enjoying afternoon snacks, like any other family only quieter and more photographic.
As we exit, a karma chip drops from nowhere particular: Kaz, my childhood bosom friend, appears through the trees. We’ve not kept in touch. She carries a child I’ve never seen, and her first baby is now six. Though it’s been quite a while, she reads me easily, and we have a lovely chat. Our respective children, all weary, grow impatient, and we part. I give her my card, hope she’ll phone.
We transform back to our human selves and make our way across the savannah of parking lot, lugging sweaty laundry and bulky coolers. The cooler sits in the passenger seat. I furl the roof. Fresh waters in hand and open to the sky, we head home, westward with the sinking sun.
Despite the forecast, the weather is a repeat of Saturday’s. I head to a plastic house, morning tea already making its presence felt. Few who’ve not worked this venue will appreciate the small delight there is to be had in being the first to use a freshly washed privy. I err gravely in not warming up properly, and regret it the entirety of the day. Once again, our angel parade is received with awe and reverence. Victor at the candle booth: “You are among the top ten most beautiful things I’ve ever seen!” I’d prefer top three, but thanks. Lili has refused to carry her wand, blesses patrons instead with regal waves of her tiny hand.
Gravel shifts uneasy beneath my feet. Between heavy weather and lumpy terrain, every step screeches my infirmity. Backstage, folk ask how I am, and I answer honestly. My ankle is entitled to be tetchy. It took the brunt of the force, which thanks to a swift reach and grab by right arm (entirely involuntary; that arm was guided by the gods) did not impact my head or neck. So, as I tell those who ask, I’m grateful to be able to complain.
Again with feeding the patrons, who number fewer than yesterday. Yesterday, we came within twenty-four bodies of matching our all-time best opening ever, set last year at 11,800 and change. Again with the slightly glitchy Mimi Flambe show. Again with the four person stilt troupe, with the addition of Wyatt Jaster, Uh-Oh, son of O, and his diablo. However, after a mere fourty minutes, I am wiped out, and Ginny suggests I finish my day doing something else, strolling, or bubbles, perhaps. I acquiesce, knowing I push my limits and court injury. Alaina balks. She does not wish to leave stilts already yet. No, she will stay with Ginny, she says. And does so, to the delight of patrons at the O’Shucks pub, which I will insist on referring to as Middleton’s, though it hasn’t been called so for three years or more. Gigi, back from stilts with Lili, tells how the Tiny Terror danced unassisted to music of the omnipresent Gypsophilia, and invited a patron to join in her dance. Whose girl is that? Mine, oh, yes.
Bubbles at the gate is quietly successful. A series of minor fiascos follows, fortunately after my contracted time is finished, and we leave the parking lot exhausted, cranky and still partially in makeup. Even so, after a few miles with wind in my hair and sun on my face, a smile spreads across it and I breathe the breath of completion.