80’s Halloween Flashback

It is night.  The kids are in bed so I tiptoed down the stairs to get some “me time” in.  I would like to make a habit of this, but to be completely honest with you, sometimes I am just too darn tired.  I put my 5-year-old daughter to bed while my love puts our 1-year-old to bed and I end up passing out while I’m trying to snuggle her to sleep on most nights.  There is almost nothing cozier to me than a warm bed with one or both of my children in it.  I could snuggle with them all day if they would let me, but I must say, I am glad they are asleep and I am getting some time to myself tonight.

It has been so cold here in Indiana lately and it seems to have come out of no where.  I began to, unknowingly, feel like the warmth was going to last all year and it had not occurred to me that it was actually late October until this serious chill took over the land.  It was only then that I realized that this was pretty typical weather for this late in the season.  Besides, it almost, in a weird way, seems like it would be breaking a tradition if it were not freezing by Halloween because this is Indiana and we can not seem to get away with having decent trick-or-treating weather very often. Bizarre weather changes are becoming the norm here.

I remember taking my daughter out in the neighborhood last year.  It was so cold that her little hands were bright red and felt like ice.  I kept switching sides as I walked beside her to warm her hands in mine, between knocking on the doors of homes.  After walking a few blocks I finally convinced her to walk toward home so we could go in for a bit and warm up.  She had only about half a bucket of candy at that point and I had fully intended on taking her back out, but once she felt the warmth of our home she ended up telling me she just wanted to stay in and eat her candy because it was too cold outside.  I was actually quite shocked, but satisfied with her choice.  I really did not want to go back out in that cold either!

While having dinner tonight we were discussing which, of all the costumes we have ever worn, was our favorite.  My daughter immediately named off two Disney characters that she had never dressed up in costume as before for Halloween.  I do not think she fully understood the question.  We laughed it off.  Then it was my turn to answer and I started thinking back on all the costumes I had worn on Halloween as a child and concluded with the answer of, I’m just not sure.  This then brought up a conversation I had with a friend at my mom’s house a week or so ago regarding the Halloween costumes we used to wear.  I realized some things after this recollection that I had not thought of before and it was quite humorous.

I grew up with three sisters and 1 brother and my family never really had a whole lot of extra money, especially when we were small children.  My mother stayed home to raise us and until my dad landed the job he still has today, he struggled and worked random odd jobs to support us.  I remember how we all got so excited about Halloween and we would be shouting out all the names of characters we wanted to be, but I do not recall ever being dressed up in costume as any of them.

Here is what I do remember.  One year, my mom dressed my youngest sister up as a big baby.  She sewed a bonnet and giant cloth diaper out of fabric, went to the store and bought a huge safety-pin to keep the fabric diaper on her, made her carry around a giant bottle that was actually a piggy bank, stuck a pacifier in her mouth, said she was a big baby, and voila, that was her costume that year.  Mom still says, in delight, that my sister won the school costume contest because of the originality and creativity of that costume.  The prize was a couple of silver dollars.

Another year I remember my brother wanted a scary costume, most likely a Freddy Cougar or a Jason mask.  Instead, what does mom do?  She takes a cardboard box, flips it over so it’s bottom side up and covers it with a big black trash bag.  She then tapes a paper plate to the center of the box, cuts a hole out of the center of the plate, takes fake blood to drizzle it on the plate that is taped to the box and tells my brother to stick his head through the hole.  Guess what he was?  A bloody head on a plate and the cardboard box with the trash bag over it was the dinner table.  To make it more convincing she taped a fork and knife next to his head on a plate.  He wanted a scary costume and that’s what he got! I do remember some of the neighbors giving us odd looks as we trick-or-treated that night. And looking back, I suppose that was a really gory and bizarre thing to see an elementary-aged child roaming through the neighborhood in on Halloween.  I mean, my brother had to have only been in 2nd or 3rd grade.

I wanted to be something beautiful one year.  I asked for a princess costume or something.  My mom said she would sew me a dress, but I don’t think she ended up having the right fabric or time because I never ended up getting a princess dress.  Do you want to know what I got to be that year instead?  Well, I was told to slip on a purple leotard and purple tights.  Then, my mom and older sister blew up a bazillion purple balloons.  After all that, they poured out a bazillion safety pins from a canister and pinned the bazillion purple balloons to my purple leotard.  I lifted my arms up and held them in the air as they did the front side and turned around for them as they did the back.  When they were through, I could not sit down and I could not comfortably rest my arms at my side either.  To top it off, my mom had sewn a green hat that looked like a stem and strapped it to my head with an elastic band.  I was a grape that year.  A walking purple mess of pins and balloons.

Do not let me forget to include yet another one of mom’s specialty costumes.  She took a small, blue laundry basket, cut a hole out of the center of it, placed it over my little sister and then filled it with clothes.  She was a laundry basket that year.  That was her costume.  Oh, and my mom made sure no detail was left unscathed.  She took a few of the articles of clothing from the basket and draped them off the sides of the basket because you know, of course if you are going to be a basket of laundry for Halloween it better look completely convincing!  I think my sister won a silver dollar or two at school for that costume as well.

My mom was happily telling my friend about all this a week or so ago.  She was saying how creative all of our costumes always were and how we always won all the Halloween costume contests at school.  I thought to myself for a moment and responded with this,  “Mom, they probably felt sorry for us at school because our family was too poor to buy costumes.  Instead you sent us to the school costume contests in cardboard boxes covered in trash bags and laundry baskets while all the other kids had fancy, store-bought costumes of popular characters.  They probably picked us out of pity and because the prize was always a few silver dollars and they knew we could use the money.”

My mom began to laugh hysterically, and for those of you that have heard my mom laugh, you know it is very contagious.  The whole room was laughing after that.  What’s funny about it is that it was most likely the truth.  My parents did not want to spend a bunch of money on costumes for five children every year, nor did they likely even have the money to do so.  My mom had no shame or qualms with rigging up her own costume concoctions and we were too young to realize anything different.

There are reasons a child’s mind remains underdeveloped to the ways of the adult world for such a long duration of childhood, and there is no shame in being glad for that now!