Monday, October 20, 2008

Costume Crazy

OK, I'm going to use one of those phrases that, as children, we swore we'd never utter: "In MY day...".

In MY day (that didn't hurt too badly!), my parents didn't buy our Halloween costumes, we made them!
Now, some mothers of my childhood friends could actually sew, and these kids sported some pretty nifty costumes every October 31st.
My mother (God bless her) thought "darning" socks meant that you took the hole-y sock and yelled, "Darn you!" at it before you threw it in the trash. (Trade-off is that my mom can cook/bake better than Paula Deen's and Jacques Pepin's love child!)

But, my mom was (still is!) a pretty inventive lady, so she came up with some pretty great no-sew costumes:
-a smocked peasant-style blouse, red handkerchief, all my mom's necklaces, and lots of her
blush, and Voila! I was a gypsy!
-4 yards of blue satin, a strip of sequined-elastic, poster board wings, and a dime-store wand
and she turned me into the Blue Fairy from Pinocchio!
-my dad's gorilla mask, gorilla hand, gorilla feet, my mom's red velvet cocktail dress, and
rhinestone jewelry and I was a "lady-gorilla on-the-town"! (Won a prize, too!)
-wore a black sweatsuit and tied a white pillow to my head, and I instantly became a Toasted

Every year, my 4 siblings and I would present my ingenious mother with many ideas, and every year she would help us create some of the best costumes on our block. As we got older and more self-sufficient, we would take on more and more of the "workload", thereby taking on more of the creativity and ownership of our creations. It was a really fun way to challenge our imaginations and ingenuities. And, what fun stories we have to tell our own kids!

By the time I became a mother, stores had listened to the complaints of many busy parents across the country (and listened to the marketing departments of Hollywood studios), and offered an overwhelming array of ready-made costumes for the young and old, alike.
For the first few years of my oldest child's life, he was happy to have me "make" (I don't sew, either!) his costumes: a jack-o-lantern, a puppy, The Crocodile Hunter (his baby brother was the Croc!).
Then, his dad got him hooked on Star Wars!
On a trip to the local drugstore, my son saw a Darth Vader costume, and it was all over. He needed that costume! I offered to buy a mask (we already owned several lightsabers!) and then create a black-robed costume. He wasn't taking the bait.
I showed him how cheaply made and ill-fitted the store-bought costume was, and promised him a better, more tailor-made costume. Still didn't bite.
Long story, short: we returned to the store and bought the costume.

Instead of beating myself up about it, I renewed my commitment to creativity. I started showing my kids pictures of my childhood costumes.
My husband and told them stories about our halloweens growing up with homemade costumes.
And, I began talking about their ideas for their costumes before the stores wheeled out their Halloween displays (it's always great to watch fireworks on the 4th of July and talk about witches and vampires!).

None of this is to say that some years I don't buy costumes for my kids, because I sure do! (Hey, it's hard to make a convincing-looking Buzz Lightyear out of cardboard and a dryer vent!) I certainly don't beat myself up for "cheating", or think that other people aren't trying hard enough when they buy their kids' costumes. It's just a silly holiday, after all; I try not to sweat the small stuff.

I believe the point I am trying to make is this:
As it always seems to be the truth in Life, when you try to create "something" out of "nothing" with someone that you love, it's in the "trying", the "brainstorming", the "collective effort" that beautiful memories are made. The cooperative spirit builds something that no "quick trip" to the store ever could. The satisfaction and the pride that your children take in wearing something that they themselves made can't be purchased at any price.

And, you always have the added "perk" of not having the same costume as anyone else.
Who else is going to be a Toasted marshmallow?
Am I right?


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