Pirates' Day Out

July 12, 2021

It was Sunday morning. Both girls had runny noses. The weather was fairly nice. There was nothing on the agenda, due to the runny noses. There was really only one option for the morning: dressing up as pirates.


Annie had started getting ready the night before, in anticipation. Luckily we had had the foresight to prepare in advance for moments like this, and we had a collection of two pirate hats, a half-dozen foam swords of various shapes and sizes, an eyepatch, and a full-size pirate flag on a lightweight flagpole. Annie had come downstairs the evening before wearing a pirate hat and the eyepatch and waving the flag around. She had sung “Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest/Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum”, and then had carefully removed the pirate articles and left them in the middle of the kitchen floor. Where they would be ready for her, whenever she needed them.


As it happened, her father and I didn’t really want a pirate flag in the middle of the kitchen, so we shoved them into another room, but we were too lazy to carry them back upstairs. So the next morning, after they had had breakfast and a bath, the girls were ready to become pirates. Cora wore a red shirt with a picture of a pirate flag on it. Annie wore an old long-sleeved shirt, made for an adult, that laced up at the top. It was much too large and became a tunic. We added a silver belt and a sword and she metamorphosed into a terrifying five-year-old pirate.


“We need to get to our ship!” she announced.

“We’ll have to build it?” I asked, as she had hinted as much the night before.

“No, no, Cora already built the pirate ship,” she reassured me.


“Oh!” I said. “Great!”


The pirate ship, it turned out, was made from stools at the kitchen counter.

The pirates spent some time in their ship, looking fierce and fiddling with the eyepatch, which was eventually rejected as uncomfortable by the captain, Captain Coco. But a bunch of pirates can’t just hang out all day in a ship – it gets too boring. When you are a ferocious pirate, life is only fun if you are scaring people and stealing their treasure. So we got on pirate socks (it was decreed, they had to be inside-out to be pirate socks) and boots and prepared to maraud around the neighborhood, scaring the neighbors. Annie, aka First Mate Marian, did a pirate photo shoot while Captain Coco was upstairs getting a pair of socks (which took about 10 or 15 minutes. Her socks are neatly paired up in a sock basket, which is right at her level and always in the same place. Whenever she is sent upstairs for a pair of socks she takes 10 or 15 minutes to get it. It is one of life’s mysteries what she is doing up there. I suspect that she enters another dimension and time passes differently there. She usually comes down with two mismatched socks, if she comes down with socks at all).

The captain soon came downstairs with a sparkly winter hat and some mittens, and bare feet. “Where are your socks?” I asked. “We have to get on socks if we want to go outside!”

She stared at me, blankly. I guess when she was in the alternate dimension, she was so busy with other things that she forgot about socks entirely. After a few seconds she smiled and held up her mittened hands. “Look, mittens!” she cried, triumphantly. 

“Where did you get those?” I asked. “I put all the winter hats in the attic three months ago.”

The captain just sat on the stairs and looked at me.

“I’ll go get you some socks,” I said. “Wait here.”

“No, no, I’m coming too!” she shouted, and toiled back up the stairs after me. I grabbed a pair of socks, she rejected them, and then she chose her own pair of socks. We forgot to put them on inside out but luckily the Rule Master was downstairs posing and didn’t enforce it. We went back downstairs, threw on some boots, tried to put a pirate hat on Captain Coco (“I am NOT a pirate! I am a little girl!”), stopped trying to put a pirate hat on her, gave in to her demands to wear a sunhat, and eventually sauntered out onto the High Seas, or the quiet suburban neighborhood street we live in, whichever you prefer to call it.

Our neighbor across the street waved. “Arrrr!” he said in a friendly way. The girls looked at him and giggled.

We had a little powwow before we went into the street. The goal was to scare people and to make them give us treasure. Therefore, whenever we saw someone, we had to say “ARRR!” or “Scurvy dog!” or something along those lines – although hopefully they would be terrified just to see us marauding the streets.

A car approached us, slowly – clearly terrified of something, although whether they were more scared of the pirates, or of hitting the pirates with their car was unknowable. First Mate Marian felt this would be the perfect opportunity to practice being scary. Cora explained to us all again that she was not a pirate. As the car inched past, a window rolled down and a friendly-looking lady leaned out the window and waved enthusiastically. “Hi, pirates!” she said cheerfully.

The first mate stared at her and said nothing. “Hi!” I said, waving back.

The car continued past.

We had another discussion and agreed that the next interaction would go better.

We walked past another neighbor’s house. There were kids in this house – friends – so they would be perfect to terrorize. We tried to peek over the fence. We saw the dad in the family.

“Hi, John!” I said.

“Oh, hi,” he said. He waved to the kids.

“How was that cherry tree grafting workshop yesterday?” I asked, because I was really curious. 

“Oh, I didn’t wind up going; I was too tired,” he answered, and then I felt the first mate’s eyes on me. “We’re out dressed as pirates,” I explained. “Arr.” I looked at the first mate, who remained silent but smiled at him. “We are out to scare people and take their treasure.”

“Well, I’d give you treasure, but I’m broke,” he said sadly. “Good luck!”

“Thanks,” I said, then added, “Arrrr.”

Another car passed by, slowed way down, and smiled and waved at the pirates, who remained mute. The first mate was looking a little mystified by the lack of fear she had planned to evoke in passersby.

We decided to sing some songs to get up our pirate spirit.

“Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest! Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum!” I belted out, with the pirates singing in tiny voices along with me. “Drink and the devil had done for the rest! Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!”

Some more neighbors waved to us, smiling.

A jogger passed and said, “cute costumes!”

We finally decided that, if we weren’t able to scare anyone or find treasure, we would have to find some previously-gathered treasure. So we went back home and got Cora’s treasure box, which was small and wooden and full of seashells, smooth beach rocks, and some beaded necklaces and bracelets. The girls tried carrying it but it was too heavy, so I wound up carrying it. By this point I was also carrying the flag. 

But, feeling a bit more purposeful with our treasure, we walked over to the playground at Annie’s new school. The pirates closed their eyes while I hid the treasure box in the mulch under a slide.

After extensive searching, the pirates (or the pirate and the little girl, depending on the moment; Cora drifted in and out of her pirate role) found the treasure box. It was a very exciting moment. They brought the box over to the swings and opened it up, and were very excited to discover so much treasure inside it. Since the first mate had actually found the box, it turned out that there was a Rule that she got to choose a piece of treasure first. None of us had been previously aware of the Rule, but Cora didn’t mind, so I didn’t mind. 

They divided up the loot after that, and then put it all back in the box so the first mate could hide it for Cora and me to find, which we did pretty quickly, since Annie gave lots of hints to her sister. Then it was Cora’s turn to hide it. We shut our eyes for what felt like a long, long time, until we got word that we could search.

As soon as the first mate went to look for the hidden treasure, her eyes just about rolled out of her head. “You can’t hide it THERE, Cora!” she said. “Everyone can see it!”

“It’s right up there!” said Cora helpfully, pointing at the treasure box, which was sitting in the middle of the big platform at the playground, from which all the slides emanated.

We had a re-do. After some coaching, Cora re-hid her box, and then said in her best imitation of a fierce pirate voice, “You’ll never find the treasure box now!”

“Oh no! You must have hidden it really well!” I said.

The first mate glanced around, in no mood for cutting her sister any slack. “Co-ra, you have to hide it in a new place, not the same place as Mommy used!”

“It’s right here!” Cora explained to both of us in her regular voice, pointing under the slide.

“Rrrrr!” said the first mate, sounding more like a frustrated 5-year-old than a pirate. She stamped her booted foot in the mulch, and I scooped up the box and changed the subject.

We did another round of this. But then, like Cinderella on that night at the ball, I realized I had probably pushed my luck a little too far and should have left earlier. We started to walk back but the magic was fading too quickly to get us all the way home. I was holding the treasure box, the flag, and Annie’s hat. She managed to lose her eyepatch somehow at the playground; otherwise I would have been holding that, too. 

“I’m hot,” said Cora.

“I’m too hot,” said Annie.

“Well, try to roll up your sleeves,” I said, and I rolled up Annie’s sleeves for her. I turned to Cora and reached for her sleeves. “No!” she shrieked, jerking her arms away. She made a horrible unpleasant two-year-old noise. 

“Okay! I won’t!” I said.

“I’m hot,” said Cora, and started to cry.

“You should roll up your sleeves, like this!” said Annie, reaching for her sister’s sleeves. Annie makes a lot of rookie mistakes.

“NOOO!” Cora screeched.

Annie started to weep. “Don’t yell at me! I was just trying to help!”

“C’mon, let’s keep walking home,” I said. “It’s hard to be pirates sometimes.”

“My legs are like jelly,” Annie whimpered.

“Carry me!” said Cora.

“I can’t. I’m carrying a treasure box, a hat, and a flag.”

Cora considered this. “I’ll carry the treasure box,” she said eventually, a solution that mystified me. I handed her the treasure box. She carried it for a few paces. “It’s too heavy!” she said. She walked over to where Annie was jelly-legging it along. “Here, Annie, you carry the treasure box.”

“No,” Annie said in a whiny voice.

“I’ll take it,” I said.

Cora ignored me. “Here, Annie! Take it, Annie.” She shoved the box at her sister.

“No!” shrieked Annie, leaping backwards.

“I’ll take it,” I repeated, trying to take it.

“No!” shrieked Cora, clutching it tighter. Then she dissolved in tears. “I want Annie to take it!”

“Annie doesn’t want to take it.”

“Take it, Annie!” said Cora, trying again to shove the box towards her sister.

No, Cora!” Annie said, managing a fascinatingly unpleasant mix of whine and shriek this time.

I wrenched the box away and Cora started screaming. She was competing with Annie for volume, because Annie continued to make unpleasant noises.

I called Peter on the phone and asked him to rescue us. He was several miles away in the car, but by the time we had sobbed and shrieked our way down the hill to the road, he arrived to meet us. As I talked about with the pirates, sometimes even pirates need rescuing.