Belated Halloween-ness


First off, some business. That littlest of persons, the one heretofore known as "The Girlie," shall from this point forward be known as "Bear". Not so feminine, I know, but certainly more befitting of a girl whose favorite utterance is a snarly arrrgh, and who wrestles up the furniture with pure mammalian gusto. The Boy shall keep his moniker, as he is quintessentially as his name suggests, having reached the critical stage where he weaponizes everything and waves, proudly, the pirate flag we purchased at our much-missed favorite dispensary for knick-knackery . That is all. Now, on to the other stuff I write about...

Halloween, as you may recall, was a pretty big damned deal in our Houston days. Like high school basketball gym big. Plan and provision-stock year-round big. More anticipation-building than Christmas big. Of course, we left true trick-or-treat insanity when we drove off that street for the last time in July. And even then we knew that what we'd miss most about living there, even more than that extra half-bath, was that exhilarating spectacle of thousands of candy-hoarders beating down our front porch. 

And, of course, we were well aware that the holiday in Seattle would be conspicuously unspectacled. For every time that The Boy jitterrily counted down the days advent-calendar-style to his favorite day of the year, we had to calmly bring him down, brace him for the disappointment that Halloween will never be as fun as it was when we lived in Texas. It's a cold-hard truth. 

But, while we may have left the revelry behind, we did take with us a deep appreciation for the holiday. Mr. New Media and I had never been ones for fantasy and dressing up and, in general, anything that might call attention to ourselves. We were both the sort of kids that were content to sit in the middling rows, dressed in nice, but inconspicuous attire, even when given the free-license that a day like Halloween could provide. We each came to our own brands of anti-socialness through our own peculiar set of circumstances, but we both got there nonetheless. And much of our parental careers have been spent trying to raise children who are not at all like us in that respect. 

It sometimes feels like some grand nature vs. nurture experiment, like Trading Places without the unfortunate foray into blackface. And at many times, we feel about as successful as alchemists attempting to forge gold out of the most timid kid in the room. Because, even after all the planning and constructing and excitement-building, The Boy, who clamored down from his nap every day for a week eager to see the progress I'd made on his wolf costume, nagging at me to finish the crown that would transform him from mere ordinary wolf to a Where the Wild Things Are fantasy, was afraid to show up at school in costume the Friday preceding Halloween. But — and I know it was a little mean of us to do — we made him do it. Because we knew that at the end of the day he would have enjoyed himself. And the true beauty of Halloween-on-a-Sunday is that you have all weekend to really get comfortable with your wolf-self, or Daphne-from-Scooby-Doo-self, or sexy watermelon, or whatever. And, yes, all it took was that day at school, and he eagerly wore the hell out of that costume for the rest of the weekend. 

But, I digress. Imagine that. This is a space about making things, and I had started out this post with the intention of discussing the minutiae of costume-building. Like how the wolf top was constructed using the same pattern used for last year's Peter Rabbit jacket. Or how Bear's Little Red Riding Hood cape, woolen with a rich cotton sateen lining and way more luxurious than the out-of-a-package acetate Little Red Riding Hoods we scrambled past on our trick-or-treating ventures, was mostly a make-it-up-as-I-went affair that turned out to be just about the cleanest, most tailored item ever sewn by my humble machine. My delighted score of a picnic basket at the thrift store. How I had to take in the tail I had originally sewn into the wolf-pants because The Boy refused to wear it at that length. But I'm running out of steam here, what with all that talk about feelings and anti-social tendencies. So I'll just highlight three moments of this year's costume preparations.


1) I've come to the conclusion that the my sewing machine's handy One-step buttonhole procedure is a poorly documented piece of crap. Doesn't work. Pisses me off every time I try to make it work. Four buttons needed installation for the Wolf and one for 'Lil Red. I tossed out the buttonhole attachment that came with the machine and I did what I imagine every Pioneer woman with a 7-year-old entry-level, Target-purchased, never-serviced Singer would have done to install a damned button hole. I just stitched in a crazy tight zigzag on either side of the hole and gouged it open with a seam ripper. By the way, have there been any technological improvements on that particular device? I keep thinking I need a better one, and I go to the accessory aisle hoping to be wowed with a top-of-the-line whizzbang of a seam ripper, and am faced, disappointedly, with an array of devices whose one-upmanship seem solely based on their ergonomic prowess (read: larger handles).

2) The Boy's crown was the final element to create, and the one item for which I couldn't just fake it with something from my stash. A last-minute trip to the fabric store found us a gold-latex-painted fabric type thing, which stood on end next to a red-latex-painted fabric type thing. The Boy, taken with what can only be described as sex on a bolt, insisted that, one, his favorite color was glossy latex red, and that, two, its inclusion in the crown was not up for debate. Compromise: made gold crown, with a red lining. Didn't hear any complaints.


3) Bear loved her cape. Until we tried putting the hood up over her head. At which point she'd tug and pull and squirm and grunt and eventually scream. So mostly she was a little girl in a red cape whose parents had to constantly explain her getup. The last time we had to explain a child's costume was The Boy's first Halloween when we pinned a handful of toy snakes to his shirt and called him "Snakes on a Baby" (this was 2006, mind you). I suppose when they're old enough to decide for themselves what they'll dress up as, they get to make the explanations. And I'll be there to make them do it.

That's a mean bunny hop


My top three Halloween costume memories, in no particular order, are: 

Second grade. Catholic school. They let us dress up with the stipulation that our costumes be religiously themed. Picture a schoolyard teeming with angels, with a few sainted friars thrown in. I had one of those cheapo printed plastic sheets with matching full-face-reeks-of-polyurethane masks prevalent in the early 80s. Honestly, I don't know why there weren't more Halloween suffocation deaths reported with these things. Anyway, facing certain excommunication, I convinced Mrs. Gariano that I was a fairy godmother. I don't remember the look on her face as I pled my case, but I'm imagining something that would convey "I know you're bullshitting me, you know you're bullshitting me, but we're going to let the kid who came as the devil stay, so we're not sending you home." They gave me the bye and and the next year we could wear whatever the hell we wanted to.

Nine years old. My aunt presented me with something that was vaguely superheroic, outfitted with a spangly cape and a complex network of snaps and ties. It had perhaps been an American Flag in a previous life. I wore it, because when your aunt presents you with something, you damn well better wear it. I mean, we've all seen A Christmas Story, right? No one presented me with anything for a few more years, so I wore it again next Halloween.

Late junior high. I finally convinced my mom to get me the devil tail and cape and ears they were selling at Mervyn's. I don't actually remember wearing it.

Oh, did I say my TOP three memories? I meant my three Halloween costume memories. Period. I'm sure there's another get-up or two in there that failed to make any impression. The short of it: my kids are going to have costumes they LOVE. Now, The Girlie, of course, is far too young to have any say in the matter, so I reserved the right to outfit her in whatever costume I see fit for her body type. Garden gnome it is. Age Inappropriate, you may cry. But in such a cheek-pinchable kind of way. One year successfully avoiding Disney-branded princesshood… check.


The Boy, after months of shoulder-shrugging, finally offered that he liked bunnies. Not something I would have gone with, but acceptable, I suppose. Mr. New Media's quite the quick thinker, however, and offered up, "You mean like Peter Rabbit?" And we had ourselves a winner. One blue felt jacket with brass buttons and some carrots for the road, bunny ear hat, yarn pom pom tail, and tea-dyed/fur embedded shirt later, we've got ourselves a decent Peter Rabbit. And that smile pretty much did it for me, convinced me that yes, dammit, I WILL go through all the work again next year. Even if half the parents at his school give me the blank why-didn't-you-just-go-to-the-Disney-Store-for-a-costume stare.


Full disclosure here: None of these pictures were taken on Halloween, because Pamplona has NOTHING on trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. I've looked in the eye all the Transformers and Supermen and Caribbean Pirates and Disney Princesses Du Jour. I have no doubt that, had we taken a moment in the yard for pictures, we'd have been gobbled up by the crowds and regurgitated at the base of a tree somewhere. That and the photos would have had a backdrop of truly crappy costumes that would have taken all my mad Photoshop skilz to remediate. And I forgot to take the camera out with us when we left the house.

Tags: costumes, Halloween, kids