Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ghosts of Halloween Past

Here's a little piece I wrote back in 1999 about Halloween.

As you can see, October is a busy month. Those of you planning on making Halloween costumes for your kids better get started. I know that many Mormon mothers have an aversion for store-bought generic costumes (let's not even get into the "mask" debate here). There is something that goes against one's pioneer heritage in schlepping to Bradlees or Toys R Us and simply buying a Cinderella or pirate or whatever costume. So many of us feel it is more--dare I say "industrious?"--to buy fabric and have needle and thread or hot glue gun at the ready to hand make our little pumpkin suits or ladybugs.

When we were kids, my mom would NEVER buy a costume (nor would my mom buy Skippy peanut butter, not matter how much we begged, instead she bought the bishop storehouse tin can kind that had 3 cups of oil on the top and ripped the bread when you tried to spread it--as if my very salvation depended on my not having that extra spoonful of sugar in the Peter Pan that made it so delicious). But she didn't make our costumes either. So we always had to find stuff that we could turn into a costume, like a black leotard would make you a cat, or a swinging skirt and cashmere sweater a 50s girl (this was when Happy Days was all the rage). But I secretly LONGED for a store bought costume. I lusted over Jill Yamin in her ready made Tooth Fairy get up complete w/sparkly wand. I envied Janie Nordblad her Saloon Girl outfit so much that I borrowed it the following year and loved every second in those smart and sassy duds.

Now some will claim it is cheaper, and hence, more thrifty to make a costume. A friend of mine recoiled at the Disney store price for a Sleeping Beauty costume so she set out to make one of her own. In the end, not counting her time or sanity, she spend $10 MORE on the homemade version than if she'd bought the store one. But there is something special in a one of a kind, homemade costume that (even if the kid could care less) makes you feel proud. And many women LOVE to sew and find great satisfaction in these creative endeavors. I can't sew at all. Now I know many of you say the same thing but secretly you DID have a home ec class in 7th grade and have made aprons or "tres facile" dresses. I've heard many a woman swear she can't sew and then I find out she not only has a machine but knows how to do zippers and linings and buttons--oh my! But when I say I can't sew, I mean I have to get the instructions out every time I need to thread the darn thing and still have to wind bobbins by hand (this is the one time a year when I drag out my sister's old Singer to make a costume for Jonah). But even so, I still feel compelled to MAKE a costume for him.

Last year he was a lion and I spent 20 hours and 3 yards of felt trying to get his hat/mane right. Then on Halloween I go to put it on him, he cries and rips it off his head and I say, in all seriousness, "You will wear this or I will BITE you." He cried even harder and I finally had the sense to bribe him with Smarties to get it on. Am I evil or what? This year when I asked him what he wanted to be, I hoped he'd say something that I could get off the rack. Homemade schmomade, I'm pregnant and working and I can't sew. Please say Winnie the Pooh I was thinking. But no, he tells me he wants to be a bird. Maybe he wants to be Big Bird, I think, maybe there's a Sesame Street store... But no. Jonah announces in the next breath he wants to be a Blue Jay. A Blue Jay for heaven's sake. My husband Dave is an avid birder and has been training Jonah since birth to be the same. By 2 Joe could identify morning doves while I still thought I'd heard an owl.

Okay, I think, I can do this (he is my first and only so I am still too acquiescent to his wishes). So I drag out the many bird encyclopedias we have and look up blue jay and draw a simple sketch. Enter Dave, master birder. "Um, Heather, that's nice and all, but the head is shaped more at an angle, and the beak needs to be pointier and shorter. And be sure to remember that Blue Jay's feathers are iridescent so the fabric will need to shimmer." Next thing you know I am in JoAnn fabric in the BRIDAL section looking at chiffons and taffetas for a 2 1/2 year old's Halloween costume that he will wear once (that is unless he refuses to wear it...).

Once the fabric is cut it is too late to turn back and so now I am trying to figure out how on earth to do this thing. So far I have some blue felt pinned together for the head with a toilet paper roll cut to resemble a beak but it just looks like a toilet paper roll with black felt on it. I am too scared to attempt the wings at this point. I will most likely wait until the 29th and do it in a rush when there is no time too worry if it looks good enough and no time to do it again if it doesn't. So if any of you out there were thinking of making a costume, think long and hard and then run to Party Needs while they still have your kid's size. A sewing free Halloween sounds like quite a treat to me.

Ten years and 3 kids later I still work very hard to acquire ready made costumes. This year was mostly a success. Jonah wanted to be a scary clown. All that he needed from me was creepy make up. Bea wanted to be a black cat, BLESS HER!! Georgia gave me trouble by deciding she needed to be Moaning Myrtle from Harry Potter, the whining chick who was killed by the Basilisk while in the loo. I did end up in JoAnn, but it turned out to be almost pain free to make a Hogwarts robe for a ghost. "Frayed edges look spooky," I assured George as I refused to hem any of it. Me too Millie opted to be Hermione which was not tough at all, given how easily her hair can be frizzed. Here are the results:

(Jonah was helping run the spook alley and I couldn't get a good shot with the strobe light.)
(She insisted on crawling for full cat effect.)

(Moaning Myrtle & Minerva McGonagall)

(Hermione, with a fever of 102, who we didn't let attend the ward Halloween party,
but did let show up for the outdoor Trunk-or-Treat)

(So here's a glimpse of a Mormon spook alley. I love the juxtaposition of imagery.
Papa Boka Rocks!)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

How Embarrassing!!!

My friend Anne directed me to a great blog, The first post I read was about an embarrassing moment in sacrament meeting. While we Mormons go to church for 3 hours on Sunday, the most important part of it all is the 15 minutes when the bread and water are blessed and passed around to the congregation. It's sort of like communion except for that whole transubstantiation thing (for years Jonah thought Catholics were cannibals). Visitors and babies are welcome to partake--it's not forbidden for the uninitiated. Only when you're doing some serious repenting do you take a pass. Basically we reflect on our baptismal commitments and think nice thoughts about Jesus.

Of course the more serious an event is the greater potential there is for irreverence. Which means most of us have embarrassing sacrament stories. When my friend Jen's son Walker was two he was convinced the whole thing was like a mid-meeting treat and shouted out once, "I LOVE the Snackrament!" I wish I could say my most embarrassing church story was because of something wacky the kids did (I need to shout out to my sis-in-law Sarah who mooned the entire Primary when she was 3). But it wasn't the kids. It was me.

A little background. Sometime in 2000, we discovered that Dave had developed a sesame allergy. So if he bit into a burger that had seeds on the bun, or any Chinese food that had come in contact with any seeds or oil (basically all of it), he'd get itchy then red then his throat would start closing. You get the picture. Well one Sunday we're sitting in church wrestling 3 kids and I mindlessly grab a piece of bread from the sacrament tray and chew it. Mmmm. Savory. Crunchy. And then it clicks that I'm tasting sesame seeds. I look over at oblivious Dave who has the bread half way to his mouth and I dive across two kids to smack his hand away and shout in a stage whisper, "Don't take the sacrament!!!!"

Everyone in a 6 foot radius goes stiff and silent. In the pew ahead of us are the Temple President and Matron. She steals a glance at us and shakes her head. Dave was the president of the young men's organization and the boy holding the tray for our row looked like he was going to cry as he imagined what sordid thing Dave must have done for me to literally knock the bread out of his sinning hand. I turned beet red and felt like I was going into anaphylactic shock. Being the center of attention is just fine by me, but being the center of a scene--I was mortified. Dave loved it. Thought it was hilarious.

And there's no way to gracefully dig oneself out of embarrassing moments. I am still cursing my sis-in-law Sue for getting me into trouble with our delivery man. Sue refers to the UPS men as "brown Santas" because they bring presents and wear brown. So this summer I hear a loud knock and I open the door to find a package there that I'd been dying to get. I scoop it up and shout across the road, "Thanks Brown Santa!!!" And when I look up I see an African American UPS guy shaking his head at me in disgust. What am I then supposed to say? "The brown refers not to your skin, but your uniform." There's no extraction at that point so I slink back in the house and order things via FedEx for a while.

Sometimes I think a little humiliation is good for the soul. Especially as a parent. Kids routinely delve into humiliation--wetting the bed, crying in public, falling off monkey bars with the whole playground watching. Then when they come cryin' to me, which they always do, I can nod my head and say I understand. And mean it.