My sister and I were way ahead of the times.
The basics are that people are having fun posting online photos of themselves in freeze frame mode—only it’s them freezing, not the camera function. It’s called the Mannequin Challenge, and I figure if nothing else it will teach a whole generation of Millennials how to spell “mannequin.”
Back to my story.
It was a long time ago, before “take your children to work” became a thing. We were completely aware of where our father worked, because we shopped there, picked him up there, and went there with him when the store was closed.
At the time, Dad was a store manager for the now-defunct Montgomery Ward, also known as Wards, Monkey Wards, and as the nearest competitor to Sears & Roebuck. He managed a succession of stores, each one larger than the one before, with the transfers to bigger cities that came along with the promotions.
My mannequin memories, though, are set in a couple of small towns in Kansas.
My sister and I would go with Dad after hours and be set free in the locked store. We’d sort through the racks of clothes, holding up evening gowns and imagining ourselves at the ball. We played hide and seek, burrowing into the racks and waiting to see if our legs would give us away.
We had rules, of course. We weren’t supposed to mess anything up, so we always carefully hid our tracks behind us. Cash registers were off limits, and were probably locked anyway. There wasn’t much we could hurt when our intentions were simply those of make believe.
My favorite activity was climbing into the show windows. I’m not really sure if Dad knew we were doing this, or if he would have cared. We felt daring, and like we were looking out on a world that couldn’t get in.
Before we posed, we carefully looked up and down the street, checking to see if anyone was coming. When the coast was clear, we’d climb in next to the real mannequins, strike our pose, and hold it, hoping someone would now walk by.
When they did, we held our pose until they were right on us. Then, we’d deliberately move just a fraction—enough to make their head whip around, unsure of what they’d seen. Sometimes they’d stop and study us and we’d hold our poses, trying not to blink or breathe.
When they’d move safely on, we’d collapse into peals of laughter and then set ourselves up for our next heart attack victim.
It was good training in stoicism—and came in handy once I became a news reporter who had to hold it together in times that were either sad or funny…like when the news guys would set fire to my news copy while I was on the air, a cigarette lighter stealthily coming up from under the counter where I sat.
But that’s another story.
For now, enjoy the mannequin challenge and know that the root of the fun is found in childhood. In my case, it was two little girls, free to roam and free to think they were fooling the outside crowd. The fact that they probably weren’t fooling anyone doesn’t even matter. It was fun then, and it’s obviously still fun now.