The world appears to have clear distinctions in terms of Halloween excitedness. From what I gather, in my 33 years of life, most find this day to be tolerable at best. They find a costume for the kid or kids or self, grab a few bags of candy, mainly the stuff they want to eat (or stuff they won't eat) and tolerate the trick or treating, Halloween decorations, and parties. Almost as a gateway to Thanksgiving and Christmas.
These are the folks with the jack o'lanterns on the porch a few days before and maybe a couple of stray cobwebs and skeletons for good measure.
There are those that hate it. The ones that keep their porch light off, and hide in the back of the house as the kids come round.
Add in those that don't celebrate for religious reasons and there are a few left.
The upper echelon of Halloween celebrants. Those that meticulously plan, decorate, craft, and scavenge to make the 31st of October awesome. Their houses look as if Halloween vomited over their front porches and yards. Their candy selection may include full size bars, and their costumes rival those of a Broadway performance.
Growing up, my mother was of that upper level.
Halloween was her day. Our costumes, her obsession from the beginning of summer through the town parade the week before. She took it seriously, thus leaving an indelible mark on my soul and causing terrible self doubt and disappointment as I dressed Mo in that first Halloween costume purchased at Old Navy. My Mom would have made something kick ass, because that's how she rolled.
Today, my list honors the ten best Halloween themes my mother used during my childhood. I would be remiss if I did not mention that she took the art of family costume to another level, which may or may not have included borrowing other children to make her vision come to life.
1. Hershey's Candy
This was the first year my mother forayed into the art of family costumes. Meticulously, she crafted two brown and orange fabric into rectangles, effortlessly painted, and topped both with glittered top hats. Then using cardboard, more paint, and one silver tutu, she finished the pieces. In the end, my father and sister stood, with arms stretched wide as a Hershey's Chocolate Bar and a pack of Reese's Pieces. My brother dressed in a circular cardboard cut-out, became the piece of Reese's pieces with the bite out. While I, in silver from head to toe, became the candy Kiss.
The photographer from our local newspaper captured this shot and we were featured front page.
As I recall our years of a family costumes, I often found myself the center of attention. This year was no different. Dressed in dyed green sheet from head to toe, and my face painted to match, I stood tall as Lady Liberty. My sister dressed in a red robe, mini glasses, white bonnet and small flag with needle and thread in hand, became Betsey Ross, while my mom found an Uncle Sam costume complete with red and white striped pants and white beard for my little brother. At the time, he must have been about seven, which only added to the hysterical nature of the costume. My parents in their matching white wigs, my mom in a house coat fashioned to look like a dress with added ruffles to the sleeves with white apron complemented my father in his regal jacket, pants hiked up with high white socks & shoes, ruffled sleeves, and three point hat. Martha and George Washington in the flesh.
3. Wizard of Oz
It all started with the dress.
My mom's cousin was in the local high school pageant and for her talent portion, she clogged danced. Can't make this up. Her costume of choice, a dead ringer for one young girl swept away to the land of Oz.
With the dress only a bit big for me, inspiration had arrived. Finding red kitten heels at the local shoe store, my costume, complete. Using a pattern from Simplicity, my brother became the Cowardly Lion. Finding some old jeans and plaid shirt, she hot glued straw to create my father's Scarecrow. My poor, poor sister. In what seemed to be an unfortunate pattern, her costume became the most unfortunate to wear. A box the size of her nine year old torso, covered in aluminium foil covered her grey sweat suited body. On her head a makeshift hat from a silver funnel and her face covered in grey paint. A heart fastened to the front completed the look as the Tin Man. My mother, as the Wicked Witch, dressed in head to toe black, donned a black wig, then covered her hands and face with green paint. We followed that yellow brick road right to a victory in the family section of our town parade.
4. Peter Pan
Sure, me in drag as Peter was memorable, as was my school aged brother in blue footed pajamas, my sister in drag and top hat, and my mom out in public in her nightgown, as Michael, John, & Wendy. Those costumes were fine. We borrowed a friend's four year old that year as Tinkerbell. With brown hair and brown eyes, and a name that started with J, Jessica fit the bill perfectly. Hook made the show. In a wig similar to something Cher would wear, my father embodied Hook. With the pirate hat and hook on his hand, my mom transformed a pair of sweat pants, and a standard waiter costume into Captain Hook's pirate fare. Emblazoned with ruffles down the middle and sleeves, she added starts and buttons to the piece, and simply Pefection!
5. Mickey & Minnie
I was thankful that year that I was not the central character. My sister and brother became Minnie and Mickey Mouse with their white four fingered gloves, black ears, turtlenecks and leggings, and the black swim caps covering their heads. They were those two icons. Dressed in white turtlenecks and jeans, my mom and I had it easy. Using a marker, she had written "Annette" & "Sharon" arched across our chests, and a curly wig covered my own hair. I was Annette of course, and I needed the hair to match.
6. Alice in Wonderland
My sister stood front and center in this grouping as a blue look alike dress precipitated this theme. My brother became the Cheshire Cat, in a striped turtleneck and a pair of cat ears and nose. As the White Rabbit, I dressed in a white sweat suit. A puffy tail, hat with ears, vest with watch, and plastic teeth completed the look. My uncle Steven, an artist, drew the Queen of Hearts playing card on a piece of cardboard. Wearing all black underneath, her hair under a hood, crown atop her head, and her face painted white with ruby red lips, my mom was the Queen of Hearts.
7. Fairy Tale
My poor sister, another year where she was subjected to the worst costume.
Having been a junior bridesmaid in a wedding a few months before, my mom became inspired. The pepto bismal pink gown was exactly something a damsel in distress might have worn trapped in a tower, and with the addition of a the cone shaped hat, the damsel was born. In grey sweats under the plastic helmet and chest pad, my brother became the pint sized knight in shining armor. My mother and father, in their robes with the addition of holiday garland around their sleeves and down the center, and crowns atop their heads, became the regal Queen and King
As I mentioned previously, my poor sister, the victim of circumstance, donned the green dragon costume my mother sewed. As if the costume itself was not enough, she agreed to paint her face green and wore a plastic dragon mouth.
8. Devil & Angel
I think this was what precipitated my mother into making us dress together. For my brother's second Halloween, she found a pattern for a devil cape with hat at the local fabric store. Sewing it up rather easily, she realized that at his age, she would most likely be spending most of the evening carrying him. In response, she made herself the angel, wearing a white draped dress, wings, and halo.
She slacked that year for my sister and I. Perhaps it was our own insistence, but we wore borrowed costumes, I the tap dancer with faux eyelashes, and my sister the beautiful bird.
9. Addams Family
My parents were invited to a costume party, an adults only version. I remember my mom looking around our dress up box and closet in an attempt to find a cheap and quick costume pair for my dad and her. Finding a seventy's dark hunter green dress, something I can now imagine someone wearing to a disco, a long back wig, my mom became Morticia. My dad wore a suit from his closet and with his mustache, he was an easy Gomez.
10. Barbie Ballerina
There was a time where most Halloween costumes were made of plastic. One typically would sweat ridiculously in the jumpsuit as a plastic mask would cover one's face.
I don't remember my mom every permitting me to wear those.
I don't remember my mom every permitting me to wear those.
In retrospect, I am thankful, especially as I look at the costumes she created over my childhood. However, at five, I wanted nothing more for Halloween then to wear the plastic Barbie costume I had seen at Jamesway store.
My mom compromised.
She permitted me the Barbie mask, as long as I wore the pink costume and tutu we had initially agreed upon.
Of course, I agreed and Ballerina Barbie emerged, ready for the Kindergarten Halloween parade.
I don't remember much of that year, except that I believe the mask spent most of the time off, then on.
Let me take these last words to thoroughly and thoughtfully thank my mother for all the time, energy, thought and love she put into those most memorable costumes. I am forever thankful for those memories. While you have left huge shoes to fill, I hope I am doing you justice.
|Does this look familiar?|
Learning from the best, I reused this costume from Mo's 3rd birthday party.
What a great $4 thrift store find, Grammie!
Happy Halloween from one of those who longs to be in that upper level!