And By Their Halloween Costumes Ye Shall Know Them, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:23am


Halloween was a big deal in my family of origin. My mom went all out on the homemade costumes, her efforts peaking the year we 3 oldest kids were a mailbox, a pencil, and a letter to the Great Pumpkin. That’s a lot of poster board and Magic Markers.

One could argue she spent so much time on this because of the 1950s ethos of motherhood. She didn’t work outside the house. Or one could reject one’s spoilsport tendencies and remember fun. So much fun.

Besides, I carried her spirit into my own parenting. Halloween was a big deal. My best friend and I, her 4 kids, my 2, would meet up at my house for dinner and then run through the sidewalked neighborhood, on into the night. I made little ghosts out of rice. Stood sections of hot dogs on end and told the kids they were “Hallow-weenies.” At the end, we’d go back to my house and lay out candy on the floor for a marathon sorting party. My best friend and I would have medaled in Halloween, if parenting were a sport.

I made my kids’ costumes too. My daughter was always a heroine. Peter Pan (better than dumb Wendy in her nightgown, right?), Wonder Woman, Diana – Goddess of the Hunt. Or Artemis, if you follow the Greek tradition. My son was always an intellectual construct of some sort. A bug, from the days when he memorized the California Insect Handbook. A potato. Yes, a potato can so be an intellectual construct. If you try to wear one. Or an origami display.

Then one day those little critters looked around and realized that the American culture had other plans in mind. My son made me buy a ninja costume. My daughter went as a witch with 2 other friends. It’s as though society seizes pre-adolescents, shakes them by the ears, and says, “If we’re talking scary, get thee to your gender stereotype. Get thee there right now!”

There they stayed, for some time.

Now my daughter has returned to super human characters, albeit those that showcase her appeal. Popular culture has come to her aid via the red-headed vampire on True Blood. One might wonder if the rise of the vampire as Good Guy isn’t a defining trait of this early century. My son is again sporting quirky costumes that take a minute to figure out. Last year he was Pikaju, the Pokemon character, complete with red cheeks. Pikaju in blue jeans, that is.

I kind of wish my daughter could still be Peter Pan, I admit. Don’t listen to this song or you are likely to cry. And my son’s costume this year, which I’m going to refrain from describing, had me shaking my head and muttering, “Well, I guess that’s comical. But, um, also a little offensive?” He promises me it was great fun.

Your kids dive into popular culture, out of your little twig nest, and emerge wet behind the ears. You stand on the far bank, holding a loving but impractical towel. Diving birds do not need towels you silly mama!

Happy Halloween everyone, and here’s to a wonderful weekend. I hope all your little Peter Pans, Ninjas, and Black Cat Fairy Witches get so much candy they can’t see over the heap. Or at least that they feel that way, for one night.

31 Comments

  • 10/30/10
    10:32 am

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    lauren said...

    my mother (my and my sisters' bespoke costumer) would've loved to have been on your halloween national squad; in our neighborhood she was jamaica's toboggan team, later to be celebrated but a solo novelty in her time.

    children of such mothers always come back for the towel eventually, often to wear it as a cape. humming your national anthem over here, dear L. happy halloween.

  • 10/30/10
    11:23 am

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    Anonymous said...

    How I miss the days of making costumes! The goldfish from Pinocchio, an orange movie star mermaid style gown and fish cap with mountains of tulle being the tail and fins (she was 4-the cap still fits-she's 20). The obscure cartoon superhero with half metallic face and 3 foot long green neon green ponytail, and lets not forget the Arthurian armor years. Sigh. Now in college, I don't even really know what they are dressing as. Not sure I want to. Thanks, though, for the walk down memory lane!
    ~Madeline

  • 10/30/10
    11:28 am

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    Susan Tiner said...

    This year we got all sentimental and carved some Jack-O-Lanterns for the little ones on our block. Thanks for the nostalgic post LPC.

  • 10/30/10
    2:25 pm

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    Len♥reNeverM♥re said...

    Your mom sounds like a creative soul!
    I do enjoy looking at those homemade costumes…they're certainly more charming than the store bought pieces!

    xo

  • 10/30/10
    2:41 pm

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    Loretta a/k/a Mrs. Pom said...

    My husband decorated outside, I did inside. Now he's away, all the kids are away, and I'll probably shut the porch light so the dogs don't go nuts. Youngest has promised from art college Halloween party. She's going as a Jackson Pollack painting…

  • 10/30/10
    3:10 pm

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    Flo said...

    SAVE THAT POTATO COSTUME! Put a violin [Dollar Store ukelele] in the hand of the potato-costumed-trick-or-treater and you've got a Complex Carbohydrate [confession: saw it in Mother Jones about 20 or so years ago].

  • 10/30/10
    5:00 pm

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    flwrjane said...

    Great memories. My mother was the Edith Head of Michigan. One year I went as Marie Antoinette complete with powdered wig. Another year as a flapper in a vintage dress. I always won best costume at the town bonfire.

    I miss her and the fantasy life she helped me live.

    jane

  • 10/30/10
    5:14 pm

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    Anonymous said...

    My compliments to your mother.

    The letter to the Great Pumpkin theme was… what shall I say: Great.

  • 10/30/10
    5:25 pm

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    Donna said...

    I love that "a mailbox, a letter and a pencil" how amazing! -and how neat that you carried her spirit to your own parenting…that's the best cudos to motherhood that one could hope to have. But times DO change and life does go on…in the form of plastic and superheros, doesn't it? I remember too, the change from simply homemade adorable costumes to the "Pleeese, can't we get it at the stoooore!"
    Thanks for the memory…Happy Halloween!

  • 10/30/10
    6:05 pm

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    EntertainingMom said...

    I can almost visualize it all!!!

  • 10/30/10
    6:50 pm

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    Lori said...

    I love all this creativity that you came from…a mailbox, a pencil and a letter to the great pumpkin…lol…love it…and that this gift was passed on to you..very neat.

    I wish I could say I have this talent…I can do some creating but not a sewer…how I wish I was one though. :)

    I enjoyed reading of your halloween traditions.

    Happy Halloween!

  • 10/31/10
    12:44 am

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    Emily said...

    My favorite costume that my mother made was a rubik's cube. The best part was going to this house where some teenagers where having a party. When I said "trick or treat" they gave me gobs of candy and one girl said she had one too as she waved her rubik's cube in the air. It was awesome, a teenager thought my costume was cool. I'll never forget her.

    Now as a grown up I'm lazy and just paint a black eye on my face and call it a day.

  • 10/31/10
    4:41 am

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    RoseAG said...

    I still remember the year I took my son, at the time our only child, to a Haunted House down at the Municipal Building where they had a Corspe that rose out of a coffin and a Ghost that popped out of a door at you.

    He got so scared he peed his pants. Fortnately he was in a Crayon costume I made him and it didn't get splashed. Eventually I sent it to the cleaners and it's still hanging in the closet upstairs. Some things are worth the closet space, even if you haven't worn them in two years.

  • 10/31/10
    7:27 am

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    Tabitha said...

    Wonderful post title. Oh I always wished for one of those creative mothers, she always had to have someone else put my costume together and they were always terrible!

  • 10/31/10
    7:30 am

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    Hill House Ramblings said...

    Gosh, your mom sounds like a lot of fun. How wonderful that you carried on her tradition for creating homemade costumes. Diana and Artemis! Now that's just beyond cool.

    Thanks for reminding me what I love most about this holiday. It's the true spirit of creativity that makes it fun. Happy Halloween!

    H.H.

  • 10/31/10
    8:19 am

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    laparesseuse said...

    And here I thought my daughter was the only one who ever dressed as Artemis/Diana for Halloween! She must have been 9 that year, and she absolutely LOVED the Greek myths (her name is Cassandra, so she comes by it honestly!). I made her costume and still have it (my proudest work involves costumes, not legal briefs or policy research). Her Halloween costumes always mystified the French, because for them, witches and goblins were the only possibilities for this celebration that they still don't quite get.

    Thanks for the memories!

    Karen

  • 10/31/10
    11:38 am

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    Duchesse said...

    The family across the street creates a tableau on their lawn: an opening coffin and hand that reaches out, complete with scary music. So last year, I opened my door to a sobbing three year old witch whose shoulders heaved as she told me, "DON'T GO OVER THERE."

    You were the Halloween Queen!

  • 10/31/10
    2:42 pm

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    materfamilias said...

    You and Pseu really need to get together for a Halloween extravaganza! Your costumes, her jack -o-lanterns. . . Halloween Queens, the pair of you!

  • 10/31/10
    5:16 pm

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    LPC said...

    lauren – I will gladly share the podium with your mother. And cut felt out in the shape of an S and glue gun it to your cape. A Turkish towel, how about?

    Madeline – Those are some wonderful costumes. Perhaps she's wearing the cap tonight? Sounds about right for a college costume.

    Susan – Thank you:). I bet your Jack-O-Lanterns are wonderful.

    Lenore – Yes, my mom was and is a creative soul. Exactly.

    Mrs. Pom – I love it! A Pollack!

    Flo – Ha! My son will love that. The potato costume was an enormous bag full of foal rubber that he wore…dyed brown.

  • 10/31/10
    5:23 pm

    Reply

    LPC said...

    flwrjane – Your mother had mad skillz, as they say. I can't sew to save my life, so I just cut and glued in a frenzy until something emerged.

    Anon – Thank you. I will pass on your compliment to her.

    Donna – You are welcome. If we're lucky we do pick up what our moms did well and carry it on. My mother definitely inspired me.

    EM :). I bet your 3 are cute this year.

    Lori – I can't sew, mom didn't sew, just good at cutting and gluing and coloring. Thanks!

    Emily – What a wonderful memory. If we're lucky as moms we contribute in ways we can't predict.

  • 10/31/10
    5:26 pm

    Reply

    LPC said...

    Rose – Oh your little guy. And of course, you had to keep that costume. What color was it?

    Tabitha – So your creativity came from somewhere else?:)

    Hill House – I completely agree. The best thing about Halloween is unbridled creativity.

    Karen – Yes! My daughter was 8 or 9 too. She too always loved Greek myths. I cannot imagine the French response.

    Duchesse – Oh, that poor little kid. I am glad I can say I nailed at least one mothering task. Thank you.

    Mater – Perhaps next year we will collaborate….

  • 10/31/10
    6:54 pm

    Reply

    Buckeroomama said...

    I sent the jedi knight robe tutorial to my mom and she made J's Halloween costume this year. Z, on the other hand, was Super Fire Girl (wearing only a red cape over her regular clothes and face paint), a ladybug, and a pirate. Yes, she had 3 different occasions to which she wore those costumes.

  • 10/31/10
    7:36 pm

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    living well said...

    I love Dar Williams – great song!

  • 10/31/10
    7:40 pm

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    the gardeners cottage said...

    my mom was an rn who worked the swing shift so my sisters and i pretty much threw our costumes together ourselves. hobos, hippies, and ballerinas were favorites. thanks for helping remember those day tonight. so much fun.

  • 11/01/10
    2:21 am

    Reply

    Semi Expat said...

    Blogger took my first comment off to the ether I think!! Wish we in UK went in for costumes as much as you do in USA… it would have been such fun! And I so love how you sum up our children growing up – 'Diving birds do not need towels you silly Mama'. Perfection as ever, LPC. x

  • 11/01/10
    2:44 am

    Reply

    Faux Fuchsia said...

    My parents live in the country but even they had neighbouring kids Trick or Treating. Something about this time of year makes me overwhelmed with Nostalgia. I don't know why. It's strange- every thing I see and do reminds me of my childhood, or trips I took years ago and stuff like that. xxxx

  • 11/01/10
    5:46 am

    Reply

    The Mrs. said...

    Halloween was fun growing up but som much better now! I truly made magic last night for these tiny's and I am so proud! the dragon and Minnie Mouse had the best time!

  • 11/01/10
    9:16 am

    Reply

    LPC said...

    Buckeroomama – Zoe doesn't want to waste an opportunity:).

    Living Well – Yes, I cried the first time I ever heard this song on the radio. And the second. And maybe the third…

    Janet – Sounds like you and your sister were wonderful for eachother and your mother was doing what she needed and maybe loved to do. Good all around.

    Semi – Thank you:). I wonder if Halloween will creep further into the UK.

    FF – Maybe Halloween is your spiritual home. In a good way.

    The Mrs. – Congratulations!

  • 11/10/10
    2:37 am

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    Tabitha said...

    I love the new livery, what an elegant new space you have to fill.

  • 11/10/10
    10:41 am

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    MrsWhich said...

    One might wonder if the rise of the vampire as Good Guy isn’t a defining trait of this early century

  • 11/10/10
    10:42 am

    Reply

    MrsWhich said...

    sorry – what I meant to say is, that you have written my favourite line of the month of November so far. Lovely rhythm and lightly sprinkled detail. Thank you.

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