When I was in grade 1, I won the Easter bonnet parade at my school. This wasn’t quite the glorious moment you might imagine, leading as it did to my first real experience of bullying. All the other kids had turned up with mum-made joints featuring tiny delicate chicks and pastel baby rabbits perched in nests of tulle flouncing. Actual bonnets. I (and obviously my parents) thought the idea was to make your own headgear. Being in grade 1, with my later undoubted artistic flair for design and precision execution yet to be realised, I proceeded to engineer a creation that could barely be called a hat, let alone a bonnet.
I began by seeking out household waste that could be used as a hat block, and came across an empty ice-cream tub in a complementary squarish shape. When I saw how well it fit on my head, I decided to just skip the whole blocking step and use it as the actual hat. It was, outstandingly, bright purple, which was our school colour. To this base I attached all the detritus I could find around our craft table, in a style critics would later call “erratic” and “formless”. The finished piece featured sequins and a couple of tinfoil easter-egg wrappers de-creased and Clagged onto the side. These little features were only embellishments to the vast pile of purple and white crepe streamers visibly sticky-taped to the top – the crowningest of glories! The overall effect was, I feel, one of repurposed luxury.
The judges, Mrs Hughes and Mr Considine, clearly agreed and I won the first-place ribbon. The sad thing is I actually believed I won on merits, not thinking for a moment the decision had been made when they realised out of the 25 entrants, only one was legitimately a 5-year-old milliner. There’s a photo of me somewhere, wearing a grey tunic with purple skivvy underneath, a bright yellow “Easter Hat Parade Winner” sash, and probably, though it’s impossible to tell because my face was obscured by all the streamers, a graciously victorious smile.
Right after the parade was over, some of the “big girls” found me in the playground and told me that my hat was made out of rubbish. I remember feeling scared and offended, and not saying anything. I think they were angry about that because they started throwing money at me. Like, all these 1- and 2-cent coins. That part doesn’t even make sense. I think the Easter hat parade was held at an after-school fete, and in those days 1- and 2-cent coins could actually buy mad lucky-dip loot. I can still feel the fear and shame I felt then! I wanted them to leave so I could take off my stupid “rubbish” hat and my sash (and then spend their coins on honeyjoys and chocolate crackles, obviously).
Last week Rufus decided that he too wanted to make his own Easter bonnet for his school parade, and frankly I didn’t try to dissuade him, even with my tormented history in this particular area. He demonstrated a familiar grasp of requisitioning nous by choosing a plastic takeaway-food container for a base. We made a chinstrap for it by punching a hole in each side and securing a loop of one of my old work stockings through. I thought he might want to paint it or some shit, but he was happy to just cover it in stickers. I realised at that point he might not win the ribbon, but he definitely won my support by not doing anything that required setting up, supervision, or cleaning away.
Here is a picture of the finished product.
It’s probably too late for this year, but just in case you want to replicate this next year for your kid, here’s what you’ll need:
-Base: 1 x King Tan Restaurant salty-fish-rice container.
-Chinstrap: Marks & Spencer 15-denier stockings, black, slick look; not quite enough. Beware accidental garrotting.
-Side stickers: “Happy Easter” in blue sparkly stickers around the front; cleverly, “Eggs” in yellow sparkly stickers around the back. Like, “Happy Easter/Easter Eggs”.
-Top stickers (not shown): A large and varied collection featuring, among others, Ben 10 and Doraemon, in deliberate arrangement.
-8 minutes. If that.
-A laissez-faire attitude towards the results of the parade.
-Not to be a Tiger Mother.
It’s far more understated than my creation of 1987, but I think it suits him. More to the point, I saw a busload of homemade “hats” when he got picked up in the morning, and he had a great day, and refused to take the thing off until bedtime. I guess no-one threw valueless currency at him then, and I suppose they wouldn’t; that’s really not Hong Kong style.
And to those kids who made me feel like shit about my Easter bonnet all those years ago, I’m pretty sure I’m the administrator of one of the splinter Ascot Vale Primary School groups on Facebook so GOOD LUCK WITH JOINING THE 11 OF US WHO ARE CURRENTLY MEMBERS, I DOUBT I AM EVER GOING TO APPROVE YOU.