Bonfires burning bright,
Pumpkin faces in the night,
I remember Halloween...
My mother always made my costumes. One of my earliest memories is me in my mother's kitchen, perched on the linoleum countertop and her fitting my feet with orange rubber gloves. I was four-years-old and I wanted to be a chicken. I liked to wear gloves on my feet and my mother completed the costume with a yellow streamered-suit hand-sewn and impeccably me.
Through childhood she made all of my out-there costumes. I was a Dead Nun one year and a "hitchhiker who escaped prison" the next. One year I went as a werewoolf (get it?) and the next year I dressed up as an old man and then there was Whoopi Goldberg circa Ghost, which thanks to my Mom, I was able to pull off.
My favorite costume, however, was the one my mother made me at age six. I wanted to dress up like my rat, Kevin so my Mom created a giant pink tail, attached it to my white leotard and sewed spots down my back and a black hood with little pink ears.
I entered myself in the kid's costume contest at the local park. The girl standing next to me won. She was a fairy-princess.
"Hey you. What are you supposed to be?"
"I'm Kevin, my hooded-rat. What are you?"
"I'm a fairy-princess. Duh."
For years I felt robbed of the prize. I had decided that there must have been some sort of mix-up and in actuality, I was the winner of the contest. I had myself convinced that if I had stood up to collect my reward the judges would see that my costume TRULY was the very best and they would have taken the prize back from the fairy-princess to give to me, its rightful owner.
I had been robbed! Either that or the judges had a vendetta against rats which would have been even worse. (I was the hooded-rat's number one fan.)
I may have been the weird kid but my costumes beat the princesses and angels to a bloody pulp (so, I thought.) I took my costuming very seriously, to the point of becoming delusional. What a pain in the ass. No wonder no one wanted to be my friend.
The next year I went as something pretty, Rainbow Brite, my favorite doll/lesbian activist. (Killer boots, right?) It was an amazing costume, but not quite me, so the next year I went back to black. Back to weird. Back to something slimy. Halloween was about masks and wigs and rubber-gloved feet. Halloween was about being different, being silly, being myself.
With the help of my mother's precision and costume-making talent, sky was the limit. Anything I wanted to be she would make.
"You can be anything you want."
And so I was.
When I moved out on my own I tried my best to make my costumes myself. I could not sew so much as a button but I was eager to try. One year I dressed up as "The Underwear Witch". I wore a pointy hat made out of tissue paper and an old pant-leg and made a cape out of my roommates' boxer shorts safety pinned to a piece of bedsheet. No one knew what the hell I was. It was a complete and total failure.
"And what are you?"
"Psh. I have no idea. "
In 2002, I decided to so something a bit more controversial and asked for my mom's assistance. The idea was too good to be poorly made. I drove down to San Diego to be fitted for my Burka. I would be an Afghanistan Peep Show and charge ten cents for a peek at my shoulder, ankle and even toe
My mother pinned, and created velcro peep-holes in the monstrous costume while I brainstormed witty ways to sell my services
disarm, disrobe. $.10
No camel-toe, here. $.10
...Afghanistan Peep Show: Only A Stone's Throw Away!
We laughed through the fitting. It still is one of my all-time favorite moments with my mother.
Unfortunately, come Halloween night, no one noticed my costume because I was with a somewhat famous friend who dressed up like Frida Kahlo (complete with unibrow) and being that his show was at the height of its fame and I was a nobody, no one cared for my song and dance. The night ended badly when I passed out in Glen Danzig's gutter and had to be dragged to Chris's truck and carted away like the terrorist I was, burka flapping in the wind of the haunted night. Those were the days.
In 2003 I dressed up as a Christian Punk band. I called myself "Holy Shit" and with a sharpie I printed the tour dates of my "Bible Belt Tour" on the back. I wore a half-naked Ken doll in a holster around my waist (he was lead-guitar) and I wore Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen dolls on my other hip with a drum stick duct-taped to their hands (Olsen twins were my drummer) which had fallen off by the end of the night when the below Polaroid was taken. "Holy Shit" could not have been complete without my bass player, Jesus H. Christ.
It cost me about thirty-bucks for the dolls, a sharpie and a Jesus is my Homeboy tee from Urban Outfitters. I made it myself. I felt so grown-up:
That was the last time I was able to dress up on Halloween.
For the past two Halloweens, husband and I have dressed up as movers, clad in Adidas pants and sweat-stained t-shirts with dust-bunnies in our hair. We have sadly spent our Halloweens together lugging boxes up the steps in the candlelight of jack-o-lanterns.
We still had ideas, however, and even though we weren't able to make them happen-- thought that counts.
2003- "Attached at the Hipster":: Siamese hipster twins straight out of Spaceland.
2004- "Swing States." :: Swingers/States of Ohio & Florida, on our way to a key-party/caucus.
This year we're not moving. This year there is no excuse not to dress up as something cool and different and if I can pull it off, funny. The trouble is, I'm a terrible crafts(wo)man. I can barely sew a button. I'm a poor excuse for a costume-maker. I use sharpie markers instead of iron-ons, safety pins instead of a needle and thread.
So here I sit, cutting out magazine letters to safety-pin to Archer's costume, a sleeveless onesie, stained and stretched out with a collage of botched letters.
(I just hope no one confuses Archer's "Illustrated Man" costume with that of a homeless punk-rocker on Hollywood Blvd, and I, the bearded lady as some kind of cracked-out sound-guy. )
It is possible that in the future, Archer will want to be a superhero or a pop-culture trend, and that's okay too, but just in case he wants to dress up like a volcano or a sunflower-seed, I want to be prepared. I want Archer to know he can be whoever he wants, that I would be happy for him to step outside the mass-produced box, scribble outside the lines, make up his own mind. I want him to look back with joy and laughter on his Halloweens and like me, be able to say that his mom made his costumes.
Halloween marked my most memorable moments. It was the one night a year I was able to dress up as whatever I wanted and no one would care. No one would make fun of me in my dorky underwear cape or my werewoolf mask, in my rat costume, with rubber gloves for feet.
Halloween nights were for make-believe and weirdness, nights I want Archer to find just as exciting. Nights I hope to co-create with Archer's imagination, a Sharpie marker and a few safety pins.
Like my mother did for me.