As the week grows older, Halloween grows closer. With colder weather and dying leaves on the tree, I can't help but grow more excited and more nostalgic by the day! Visions of kiddos tromping about in whatever creature strikes their fancy always brings me back to my own days of reverie of this long favorite holiday.
As a youngster myself, I was blessed with a mother that was both creative and crafty. This generally meant that I always had one of the best costumes going. As a wee one, I was never quite fully aware of just how great these costumes turned out; I always wound up being what I wanted to be. There was a year that mom made me the most amazing R2D2 costume; paper mache slathered lovingly over a giant balloon to make a full body costume. It was a spitting image of R2D2, legs and googaws and all. The costume was rigid and had to be lowered over my head and reached all the way to my ankles. I was R2D2. The costume was so rigid, I was forced to staple my candy bag to one leg and my mother had to journey with me house to house because there was no way for me to ring the doorbell. It was that awesome; kids turned their heads as they walked by on the street it was that impressive. Even despite the fact that there was one imposing hill in our northern Indiana town that posed problems, I loved it all the same. (Seeing as the costume was so rigid, I couldn't bend my knees. This resulted in my tipping over as I started my descent, rolling to the bottom of the hill! Regardless, suit unscathed.) It was somewhere between 78 and the early 80's, so Star Was was THE thing to be, and I was quite ecstatic to take part.
My home made costumes were always of like quality and manufacture from mom. Always over the top, always huge, always awesome. As a young kid though, I had a hard time appreciating this though. We'd head to the store year after year in search of bits and piece and parts, so I would always catch glimpses of the vinyl character costumes that used to line the shelves. Back then, the costumes were always packed in boxes with see through panes on the top and I would always look them over with wonder. Inevitably my classroom parties would be filled with such costumes, and I always looked on them with envy. Sure, mom always made amazing costumes but these guys...they got do be all sorts of fascinating things like Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Captain America, or the object of my own costuming desire....Luke Skywalker. Some few years after the amazing R2D2 costume, I decided I couldn't stand it any longer and stood my ground for the in store argument over what I wanted to be for Halloween. I wanted to be Luke Skywalker, particularly Luke Skywalker in his X Wing uniform. Who didn't want to be an X Wing pilot in 1980? Mom, being as crafty as she was started her gears to turning on how she could make such an extravagent costume, but I insisted she didn't need to worry; there was already a complete costume sitting here on the shelf just waiting to be snatched up, complete with plastic Skywalker face.
The look of disappointment was near instant in mom's face, but I was too young to pick up on the subtleties of it all. (Ask my wife, she'll say at 34, I still can't pick up on the subtleties of women!) All I knew was that my target was in site and the force was flowing through me; I had to stay on target. Eventually, I prevailed and Halloween rolled around and I got to don my vinyl X Wing suit. It was a cold year, so the costume had to go on over a heavy winter coat which detracted from it's appearance instantly. With the home made costumes crafted by mom, I never had to worry about getting cold. They were always thick and elaborate so I never grew cold. The dissolution of my grand visions of trick or treating were already on the downfall. Most of the night went as expected, but there was one heart breaking fact that I discovered at the end of the night; vinyl costumes were cheap and they were flimsy. Luke Skywalker had split and shredded under the extensive hiking as I walked from house to house that night. I think I shed a bit of a tear that night as I realized that those packaged costumes that looked so great actually kind of sucked, and I missed out on a year of my mom's excellent costume skills. What a lame Halloween.
Needless to say, I never again looked twice at the store bought costumes after that fateful year. I was young, maybe 10 or so, but I learned a valuable lesson. Halloween costumes are ALWAYS better when made from the heart and crafted by hand. In fact, the tradition carries on to this day some fifteen years later as my own daughter and I prepare to set forth into the night on Friday night. This year Delaney will be setting forth in yet another large paper mache head, sculpted by the master hands of my mother in the form of a Scooby Doo head. She'll also be wearing a matching brown sweat suit complete with patented Scooby Spots and tail. Myself will be right there beside her as we go house to house, complete with Green shirt & brown pants and Shaggy wig. Sure, my own costumes have been scaled down as we pour more effort into Delaney's costumes, but the fun is all the same, if not more so since I'm passing on the same excitement of a great costume onto her. And thankfully? Delaney's still yet to fall prey to the boxed costume lining the store shelves!
For you readers out there, if you made it this far, I invite you to share your own Halloween memories in the comments below!
Happy Halloween folks! (And sorry mom!)