Many of my favorite childhood memories revolve around Halloween. Not so much the candy (I was a saver, not a binger) but the costumes. If we ever had a store bought costume, it was not one I remember. Growing up, my parents encouraged creativity in all things, and Halloween was no exception. There were wigs, face paint, paper mache heads and often the problem of incorporating long johns at the last minute (it was Iowa, after all). There were certainly favorite costumes, like the furry bunny costume my mom made that was handed down from kid to kid, or the two-person horse costume my best friend and I made out of huge ice cream tubs (I was the hind end). Then there was the mummy costume, where my dad wrapped me in hospital gauze from head to toe, not thinking about the possibility of having to use the restroom. These were certainly not works of art, but the process of making them was full of laughter.
Once my husband and I had our own kids, we wanted to provide opportunities for them to create similar memories. I admit, when my kids were really little, and time and energy was at a premium, I welcomed the convenience of party store costumes. When the kids were about 5 and 8, I found a hilarious set of costumes for The Incredibles on-line. It was the perfect number for our family and the kids bought into it immediately. Our debut was at our church’s Trunk or Treat event. I remember feeling so foolish stepping out of the car with my spandex super hero suit, but the squeals of laughter and photo requests made it all worthwhile. The whole family loved it, and the kids had more fun staying in character and handing out candy than trunk or treating for themselves.
Each year thereafter, in the beginning of October, the kids and I start brainstorming costume ideas. We work together deciding who will be what, collecting and buying supplies, assembling, fitting and adjusting until everyone is satisfied. There are no patterns involved, just rough sketches and some Pinterest inspirations. Some things I make from scratch, and other pieces we purchase. I am not a great seamstress but have become brave in wielding a glue gun. Sometimes visibility and mobility are compromised, but the kids’ joy and pride wearing the costumes outweigh a little discomfort.
I found myself looking forward to this time more each year. As a stay-at-home mom, this became a fantastic creative outlet for me that I didn’t realize I was missing. I would find myself roaming the aisles of Home Depot and the depths of my garage, trying to re-imagine the ordinary and what I could use to construct each costume. Some were pretty unexpected, like a lamp shade and pool noodle to make the Minion, a deflated basketball for the Alien and a dirt bike helmut to make a Wild Thing head. In the end, it’s always a wonder to me that it comes together in time.
As my kids turn into teenagers, I know their time participating in the family costume is limited. Fortunately, they have developed a “nothing is impossible” attitude, at least in regard to costumes. Already, they are talking about making their own costumes next year, maybe with their friends. My response to them is “You have learned well, young Padawan. Follow the force.”
This fall, if only for one night, you too can find your inner child, unleash your creativity, and make some lasting memories. To me, this is the real treat of Halloween.