It’s Not About the Costume. It’s About the Memories.

I was going to post an election day essay today, but then I found out I might still be in the running for the GMA Advice Guru position.  After some thought, I decided it might serve me better to keep my writings apolitical for a while longer.  It would be just my luck that finally some prudent ABC application reviewer would decide to check out my blog column (as I like to call it, thus fulfilling my newspaper columnist fantasy), only to misinterpret my opinions, thereby knocking me right out of the guru-race.  I’m nothing more than cautiously optimistic on this go-around but still, until November 8 or upon receiving definitive word that I am no longer under consideration, I will stick to benign topics.  Hence, today you will read about Halloween.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.  I love the idea of spooky decorations, carving pumpkins, and what I absolutely love most of all is the idea of homemade costumes.  In fact, I learned to sew by way of making Halloween costumes for my kids.  When they were really, really little and I chose their costumes, I worked from commercially made patterns.  As my boys got older they got more involved in the annual costume selection process and it grew increasingly difficult to find patterns for the stuff they wanted to be.  They say, necessity is the mother of invention.  Couple that with what I say; I am the mother of the kids with the best Halloween costumes, and so I did what any other mother in my shoes would do.  I began designing my own patterns.  I’ll tell you what, there’s not a costume request that I can’t handle with my trusty sewing machine, a nice, big roll of sturdy duct tape, and when necessary, the heavy artillery.  That’s right, this mom is not afraid to use a hot glue gun or a commercial grade staple gun if and when the circumstances call for it.  Of course these are just the basic supplies.  Like any reputable costume mistress, I’ve been known to use various and sundry objects in manners for which they are not intended.  These have included pvc pipe, aluminum air ducts, cardboard boxes and crates, wooden spoons, buttons, insulation board, styrofaom balls, felt, and of course, pipe cleaners.

My very first masterpiece was a cow costume.  Christian wore it in 1993 when he was two years old.  Then Jared wore it in 1997 when he was two years old.  I have lent it out happily over the years, until last year, when I retired it from circulation.  Just before Halloween last year I was showing my arsenal of costumes to a neighbor whose young child had just turned two.  Of course, she was crazy about the cow costume, everybody is.  It really is quite adorable.  The cow body is a jumpsuit made of fake white fur with black spots (like the Chik-Fil-A Cows) and has a black tail.  A real miniature copper cowbell is laced through a thin leather strap that hangs from the collar.  There’s a headpiece that is made from the same fake cow fur, with cute little ears lined in pink and solid white horns.   The backing of the fake fur is stiff and abrasive so I lined the entire costume, body and head, with silky, white satin for comfort.   My neighbor asked to borrow the costume for her child, and I obliged, stipulating that she return it when she was done with it because it was (and still is) my hope to pass it on for future generations to use.  Now, I know what you’re thinking.  You’re right, Halloween costumes are not your typical heirlooms, but just the same, I wanted it back and made it clear (or thought so anyway).

Halloween came and went.  No cow costume.  Thanksgiving came and went.  No cow costume.  Christmas, New Years Day, Valentines, and Easter all came and went and still no cow costume.  The nerve of some people.  Finally in May, I got the costume back, but not without my asking for it.  Do you want to know why I didn’t ask for it sooner?  It’s because I didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable?  I’m not kidding.  Sometimes I think I need to have my head examined.  Anyway, Jared was doing this project on the book Animal Farm by George Orwell and he needed farm animal costumes.  Carpe diem!  I’d been hoping for an opportunity like this to present itself for seven months!   I immediately called my neighbor’s house and talked to her husband, which was lucky because he promptly found the costume in a closet and delivered it to me the very same day.   I breathed a sigh of relief to have my precious costume back home where it belonged.  Unfortunately, my relief ended up being short-lived because as I removed the little cow from its storage bag, I discovered that it was badly soiled with some sort of sticky brownish gook.  OH MY GOSH!  HOW AM I GOING TO PASS IT ON TO MY GRANDCHILDREN LIKE THIS?

Fortunately I was able to restore the cow costume back to its pristine condition, but I did have quite a scare.   As it turns out I made the decision to retire the cow costume along with several other favorites because THEY ARE IMPORTANT TO ME!  I hold no grudges.  I’m really fond of my neighbor.  I’m sure she just didn’t realize how much mommy-love went into every single stitch of that costume.  I’m sure I hid the depth of my emotion well as I handed the costume over to her in the first place.  Clearly she never imagined the vitality of my memories each and every time I run my hand over that fake cow fur or hear that jingling cowbell.  I already established that I love the idea of homemade Halloween costumes.  It’s not a secret and it’s not all that weird.   Okay so maybe it’s a little weird, but let me tell you something.  It’s not as much about the costume as it is about the memories.  The year that Christian was in first grade he asked me if he could be Wolverine, you know the X-Man, for Halloween.  Our conversation went something like this.

“Mommy.  I know what I want to be for Halloween this year.”

“Already?”

“Yep.  I want to be Wolverine.”

“Wow!  That’s a great idea!  Can you find me a picture of him so we can get started on your costume? “  Wolverine was a costume I could really sink my teeth into.  “This is going to be really fun, Christian!”

“Mom?  Can I get the one at the store?”  He timidly posed this question and it brought my costume planning to a screeching halt.

“What?  You don’t want me to make you a Wolverine costume?  Homemade costumes are so much better.  Don’t you think so too?”

“I want the one at the store.”

“Really?  You don’t want me to make it?”

“No.  I want the one at Party City.”

“Why?”

“I like it.”

“You think it’s better than what we could make?”

“I like it.  I want one from Party City like the other kids this year.”

“Have you been thinking about this since last year?”  Mind you, he’d asked to be Wolverine the year before, but I was already more than halfway through making a tennis ball costume for him so I flat out said no.  I had forgotten about it.

“Yes.”  Apparently Christian had not.

“Okay.  Would it make you happy?”

“Yes!  Can we go now, Mom?  Can we go get it now?”

“Sure.  Let’s go.”

It was 1997 which meant it was Jared’s turn to wear the cow.  He was adorable as he shouted a healthy, “Mooo. Mooooo,” instead of the more common,” trick or treat,”  at every door step in his plea for candy.   Even though it broke my heart just a little bit, Christian wore (shudder) the store-bought Wolverine.   As it turned out, I am quite certain that no homemade Wolverine costume ever could have made Christian as happy as that store-bought version did.   The memory of the look on his face, as he struck his Wolverine pose for the camera, is one that I will cherish for a lifetime.  I stayed up late that Halloween night, after Jared and Christian ( and their dad) had collapsed from a night full of trick or treating.  I washed those sweaty costumes on the delicate cycle and carefully spread them out flat to dry.  The next morning, when the house was still quiet, I folded Wolverine with as much care as I afforded the cow and packed them both away for future generations to use.  That store-bought Wolverine earned a place among my favorite costumes because, after all, it’s not about the costume, it’s about the smile it brings to a little boy’s face.  It’s about the memories… alive in my heart.

Photograph courtesy of Claire Nolan. 1997

Till tomorrow…  Good night.  Sleep tight.

P.S.

Don’t forget to vote.

5 thoughts on “It’s Not About the Costume. It’s About the Memories.

  1. I get where you are coming from with the cow costume–I made an adorable crayon costume for my son when he was seven. Later I lent it on my niece. just like in your story, the costume didn’t get retunned so after a long while I asked for it back. It turns out that it had chocolate stains all over it. The costume was made out of felt, so still to this day I have not cleaned it, not wanted to risk ruining it entirely. But since it is already unwearable, I guess I should jest go ahead and do my best to get it clean. Thanks for the story!

  2. It’s good to hear from you! We must catch up! I’ll see if I can find a remedy fro cleaning felt that does not require full immersion in water. I’m sure I’ve seen one somewhere. Sit tight and I’ll get back to you…it may be in the form of an ask ant advice column, but I’ll let you know. Please give my best to Richard. Pat and I still owe you one for your sneaky trick that made it possible for us to dance together at our wedding. I’ll never forget that!

  3. Antoinette, I am hysterical as I am remembering the wolverine costume, like it was yesterday! I even know the baseball costume,too! I love the door decoration that Christian is in front of— Carolyn did that for us, as usual… As for your blog, you are missing your calling if you do not write a book of rememberances about your life as a mom… get going on that– you definately have a “real talent” in that arena!
    Keep sending me your writings…. loved our lunch recently– look forward to another soon.
    Love,
    Lynne

  4. I feel like Christian wore that costume last year…I remember it so well…could he be any cuter??? Time really does fly!!!!

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