Ahhhh, Halloween! The hunt for costumes in Los Angeles seems to begin in February and culminates in a furious amount of behavior this week. I love it! So many wonderful costumes, so much creativity. I particularly like the effort parents put into their kids costumes.
My Mom fell down in this area. Miserably. And would have been the first to admit it.
I was raised in Sydney, Australia and in our house, EVERY, opportunity for dress ups was met with the same solution. A sheet. And not an old sheet that could be torn up, it would have to wind up on a bed again subsequent to the event.
From the age of 5, I was variously an angel, Mary Magdalene, Judas, Shirley Temple, and a roman in a toga. The sheet was draped across my body and held together with safety pins and luck, maybe a bit of elastic threaded through a loosely stitched bit at the top. This meant that at the various events, parties, Sunday School Christmas parties, and school end of year musicals, I was pretty much the one guaranteed to bare my not quite there breasts at an unforeseen moment when said costume was either trodden on by some well intentioned young boy, or when I either a)raised my arms to sing or b) just moved.
It's not that I had a bad childhood, or that Mom didn't care, but as a single parent in the 1970's in Australia, she was simply doing what parents did, 'making do'.
There were a few exceptions, at Miss Smiths' Academy of Dance in Rockdale, I was to be a bee. Mom was given a brown turtle necked leotard, with long sleeves, and yards and yards of gold sequins on ribbon to sew on the leotard, in the shape of, well, to make it look like I was..well...a bee. Mom referred to this as 'that bloody bee costume'. Firstly, she sat down one night after her second job, with a glass of sherry and the offending article and sewed ribbons of gold sequins on. When I took it into Miss Smith's Academy of Dance, I stood there, festooned in ribbons of sequins like political bunting at a Democratic Convention. Sadly, this wasn't 'right'. Too loose. And Mom was called in to be chastized by Miss Smith. 'The sequins need to be sewn on individually, in bands of three deep, across her body...like a bee...do you see, like a bee'. As I stood there modelling.
So, armed with a glass of sherry and me standing before her, but slightly to the side so she could still watch Mr Ed, she unravelled the sequins from the ribbon and started sewing them on. Never mind she had 'done' a ligament on her pointy finger so sewing like this wasn't easy and I was like a pin cushion at the end, trying not to yelp everytime she stuck me. When she finally finished, she stood back, took another sip of sherry and announced 'there, it's done, now take it off and go to bed'. I did. And the stretching required resulted in pinged gold sequins EVERYWHERE!
Mom suffered the ignominy of having to get the work done by another kind, and talented ballet Mom. I made a beautiful bee, but it didn't help Mom's ego one.little.bit. She was once again 'a failed mother'.
Shortly afterwards I was to be a flapper at a school play, 'Thoroughly Modern Millie" the sheet was called in for use again, some elastic threaded through the top to hold it up, and a beanie was bought from a shop up the road. I was sent home with a letter from the teachers that I never read, but I do recall Mom sobbing that night. And I didn't get to be a flapper.
At another event, I was to be 'Wee Willie Winkie' and this was a prize winning job. Mum made me a long flannelette nightie, with a cap, and proudly announced 'you'll be able to wear this for winter'. It wasn't even made from a sheet! And I got to carry a candle, lit, until the School Principal blew it out and took Mom to one side to explain that giving a 4 year old a lit candle probably wasn't a good idea. Anyway, I didn't win, Caroline won, her parents hired her a Snow White costume. Yes, I was jealous.
So, when it comes to Halloween costumes, I blanch, I run scared and I hide for a couple of weeks. I have a fear of whatever I wear falling off, or not being quite right, and I say to parents everywhere, congratulations, you are doing a fabulous job, no matter what you do, because you are trying!