I was seven when Elvis died. I had only the vaguest notion of who Elvis was/had been, but I knew by the size of the newspaper headline and the mobius strip of news reports on television that it was a big deal, so I felt I needed to make a big deal out of it as well. Except I wasn't a particularly loud or demonstrative child. I didn't feel the need to cry or react in a way that would cause further disruption. So instead, I pulled out my coffee can, the one filled with little plastic animals and figurines. I had coffee cans for everything, namely crayons. The smell of wax, coffee and tin takes me straight back to childhood.
But anyway, this day was Plastic Animal Funeral day, in honor of Elvis. I laid out the newspaper on the floor and carefully lined up all of my animals - zebras, monkeys, horses, giraffes, turtles, elephants, you name it - on the lower half of the paper, facing the huge black and white portrait of Elvis that took up most of the paper's upper half. When the menagerie was complete, I turned the coffee can upside down, placed it above the newspaper and sat my orange plastic Jesus on top of it. He stood with his arms wide, looking down on Elvis, and all of the animals stood looking at Elvis, at Jesus, in solemn silence. Then I just sat cross-legged on the floor and stared at my mock funeral.
After several moments of silence, my sister - by then a teenager - gave me a look of scorn, nose crinkled in disgust, mouth slightly ajar in disbelief. She turned to my mom and asked "What is she DOING?" in a voice that suggested I was borderline psychopathic and that my mother ought to be seriously considering having me locked up in a juvenile psychiatric unit for serious evaluation and a heavy Thorazine regiment.
My mom glanced at me, the menagerie, then back to my sister.
"Leave her alone." she said with finality. "She's not bothering anyone."
My sister retreated dubiously, looking highly offended and contemptuous, clearly realizing that she was the only person in the room smart enough to recognize that there was obviously something wrong with me. I ignored her. I stared at my menagerie and imagined the beautiful speech that Jesus was giving the animals about welcoming Elvis into Heaven.