Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Homemade Halloween

I’ll never forget the Halloween when my best friend said, “Let’s be cats!” Oh boy, I thought, We’ll look so great in our matching costumes. It was sometime during years 7-14 of a girl’s life when she has to be exactly like her best friend.

My best friend was a single child from a family of means. I grew up with three brothers and usually one or two “strays” living with us. Her house was elegant and ultra modern for the seventies – they had an ice maker and a trash compactor. My mom wallpapered the kitchen herself. While I hid my diary on a 7-day rotation with a stealth that could be a model for the CIA, she didn’t even bother hiding her diary.

It was serene at her place. The house overlooked a landscaped Japanese garden. My house, comparatively, was like entering a 24-hour zoo/circus. I remember the tension in my stomach as the school bus neared my house. I never knew what to expect. My brothers could be playing a soccer game in the yard, could be half killing each other by the stream in a game of war…or they could be waiting for me. Her mom seriously offered me sanctuary any time “those brothers got really bad.” I recall sprinting to their house directly from the bus stop many times.

So our costumes. My best friend said her mom was “working on it” at least two weeks before Halloween. Did I mention her mom was quite a seamstress? I reminded my mom, “We’re going to be cats, mom, you have to make my costume.” Though mom usually put in a good effort on costumes, she always said her sister got the “sewing gene”. She was a fan of making costumes cheaply with what she had on hand. Clearly she had very little on hand that Halloween. When she unveiled the painted shopping bag with a "Tada!", I knew it was not going to look anything like my best friend’s costume. As you can see in the photo, I was right. I must have made a face because mom said, "It isn't done yet!" She felt my head with the bag on it and made a few marks. Then she took it off and cut out the eyes. Pure Charlie Brown.

The past few nights I’ve been busy hot glue-gunning scraps of material to a towel for my son’s requested “drippy monster costume”. I didn’t get the sewing gene either. It's right on par with my mom's costumes. Actually, I didn't get her art gene so my costume has less flair. It doesn’t really matter. He’s four and a boy, right? Then again, his best friend across the street has a very talented artist dad. Their house is filled with hand-drawn charcoals and cut outs of skeletons, ghouls and other decorations. I already hear “T has better toys than I do!” so I wonder if the drippy monster costume is going to fly. What do you think?

I shouldn’t leave you with the idea that my childhood was a horrible string of events with a distracted mom and wretched brothers. It was a joyful noisy life and I was happy in the chaos. I also hid out under the stairs a lot, squeezed behind the furnace. There was a tiny room with a tiny door just my size under those stairs. It was a little hot, but I had books, a lamp on a long extension cord, some stuffed animals, and a notebook back there. The best part? My brothers were too big to get past the furnace. Bliss.

My best friend wanted nothing more than to be at our house, getting chased by my brothers, and eating out of the stuffed refrigerator in our garish seventies kitchen. I've recently reconnected with her after all these years. She's still a better dresser than I am and remodels homes for a living, among other talents, so she has me beat with my glue gun. I'm going to be a pirate-witch this year. I wonder what she's doing this Halloween?


  1. What a great story, J - although I never saw it quite that way. I thought your house was the center of the universe (food fights were allowed!!) and the worst moment of my day was when my Mom would call and say it was time for me to come home. To the old folks home. Sigh. ;) Love seeing the photo though - it is funny now, I admit.

    By the way, you are 1) a mother, 2) a wife, 3) a writer, 4) a blogger, and 5) a RESTAURANT OWNER, so, I think your son's costume is just about on par!

    The Best Friend

  2. Thanks KM! You know I give my mom flack because it's fun, but she ran that circus with panache for about 30 years. I have no idea how she managed 4 kids and all the extras and the friends and neighbors...and she still got dinner on at 6pm when dad showed up from the office with low blood sugar grabbing at the peanuts. Amazing!

  3. I think it's fantastic! I had one of those costume-adept moms. Hmmm, maybe I'll have to get her to scan that Wonder Woman costume...