The following post was written in 2009. Since then I’ve learned a few things about myself, about ego, about being all-one, and about making sure that the spirit of Halloween is imagination and fun rather than perfection and competition. (not that perfection has ever been a part of my world…) So read this. Take from it what you like. I’ll still never buy a new costume but I suppose if my kids wanted to spend their own money on one, I’d allow it. Fortunately that issue hasn’t come up for us anymore and my kids are more than happy to create from thrift, from scraps, from random pieces in our house and from the very depths of their imaginations. There’s that word again. My favorite.
This story originally ran in my Just A Minute blog in 2009. I’m sharing it again at the request of a few…
October 30, 2009…This morning, the day before Halloween, my little first grade monkey was excitedly putting on her ears, pulling up her pants with tail affixed, and straightening out her furry belly. All these pieces we had created last night by the way when she reminded me that all the kids would be wearing their costumes to school. All this time by the way I was thinking I had all morning Saturday to get said pieces ready for Saturday afternoon. Nonetheless we did have a really good time making the pieces last night as she determined which brown fabrics would be appropriate and desirable for her said monkey costume. At bedtime she was psyched.
At face makeup time, less so. She started getting nervous and I could feel it in her twitching face as she continuously wrestled away from my face-paint clutches to catch a glimpse of herself in the mirror.
Then the exclamation followed by the tears, “I don’t even LOOK like a monkey! Nobody will know what I am! EVERYONE else will have a store bought costume!!!”
We happen to go to a very creative public school, or at least a public school filled with creative parents, teachers and kids. I was 99% certain that the handmade costumes would outnumber the store boughts but there was no convincing her of that.
I went on about using our own ideas, skills, creativity, brains as opposed to buying something made with someone else’s ideas, skills, creativity, brains. I pontificated about Halloween being a day for creative expression, costumes being renderings not exact copies. What she heard was “blah, blah, blah, no way in hell am I ever gonna buy a costume.”
By the time she arrived at school we were already late, she was already flustered and nervous and, because she was the last one to arrive she got flocked. Cries of “what are you?” went up from the crowd. The tears, which had been resting just under her lids, now flowed and she ran out of the room and into the van. (this part I was told as it was actually my husband dropping her off, I was still at home drinking my coffee.)
As she walked back into the house she cried out, “nobody knew what I was, everyone else had a good store costume, I’m NOT GOING TO SCHOOL!!!”
I let her cry, felt the pain in my own heart and for just a minute I was 7 and running out of my first grade classroom. I hugged her and she melted into me. She sniffed the final cry and wiped away the last tears which smudged her face completely. I took her into the bathroom and wiped off her face with a warm washcloth and held her up to the mirror.
“Look at those ears. Look at that tail. Look at that furry belly. What are you?” I asked.
“A monkey. But nobody knew.”
We talked about how everyone was excited, she was the last one in, she missed them doing it to everyone else. We talked more about store bought, her creative self, how much fun we had making the costume last night. I told her over and over, “Look at you. YOU made that costume!” She smiled a little monkey smile and said she wanted to go back.
In solidarity I put on some cat ears, drew myself some whiskers and drove her back to school. We arrived just as the class was lining up to walk to the senior center to share their costumes and a few songs.
The kids gathered round. All of them stating how much they LOVED her monkey costume. (apparently a little chat had ensued upon her initial departure)
I looked around and saw that at least half of the costumes were indeed handmade or mindfully assembled with random pieces. (my preferred style for sure!) And, if you bought your costume, no offense intended, but those handmade costumes really did shine brighter than the store boughts. They were filled with love and creativity and time together and conversation and laughing, and maybe even a few screams and cries but what art doesn’t come with struggle? (I also saw that store bought didn’t necessarily mean instant recognition but that was a lesson I’m not sure my child could see just yet.)
I will continue my quest to have my children see that a handmade or assemblage costume is the way to go for as long as I live. I want them to see, feel, know that Halloween is about having fun and dressing up in our own version of something. I want them to feel too that our own creativity is more fun and more valuable than anything we could ever buy. And I want them to understand that everything that is on the store shelves now started out as an idea in someone’s brain. Every Batman, Power Ranger, every cartoon, movie, story, drawing, show. All of them came from someone’s brilliant self. Somewhere, sometime, somehow.
The lesson may not be realized fully by the first grade monkey but I am of the firm belief that it will sink in drip by drip.