Sunday, October 30, 2011

Thinking outside of the cardboard box

When I was a kid costumes were easy.

Or so I assumed.

A week or so before the last day in October some garment so incredibly wonderful and perfect in every way shape and form floated down from the heavens and beckoned me to wear it.

Of course it only seemed special to me if it came in a thin cardboard box with a cellophane oval on the front that revealed a plastic mask stapled on each side with a strand of rubber band.

Special meant store bought. It also meant “would-break-rip-or-become-musty-by-mid-evening.”

The first costume I remember adoring was a vampire assembled out of my mother's navy wool nursing cape, some red lipstick, talcum powder and a touch of burnt cork to hollow out my eyes and cheeks. It was simple, yet effective. Early arrivals were convinced I was the devil, and their shrieks could be heard loud and clear.

I felt bad enough to let my mom take over handing out candy, though not bad enough to change.

The fact that my parents had scoured the closet for old shirts that could be cinched at the waist or stuffed with pillows to recreate any number of clever personas on a smaller scale, was lost on me.

I was equally as oblivious to the sentiments my uncle scrawled – a thickly veiled expletive -- in permanent marker on the sign I paraded around, explaining I was masquerading as “Edith Anne … and you're not. PHPHPH.” It was years before he told us the inside joke on that last bit.

But this is a family paper so I can't spell it out. Let's just say I should have just schlepped around an oversized rocking chair to help people figure out who I was.

But, ahhh. Those were the days. We ebbed and flowed between spontaneous creativity and Saturday morning cartoon as effortlessly as butterflies took flight.

Some things don't change.

My kids have always had a mix of homemade and store-bought costumes. Princess garb has long been a favorite, as have Space Rangers and Spider Men.

And honestly, I've been fine with going the commercial route. Traffic moves faster there.

It took me so many months to come up with a cardboard box parade dragon for Chinese New Year that we finally used it in July.

Although it would give our neighbors a chuckle, I'm not sure I can make the kids wait for Christmas to go Trick-or-Treating.

But it looked like we were heading for Halloween in December this year as each passing day brought no clear decisions from either Ittybit or The Champ.

They knew what they didn't want to be.

“Not a princess.” “Not Batman.” “Someone already took the 'Fire Fairy.'” “And I am not wearing a Pirate outfit.” Racks and racks of perfectly presentable machine-made costumes left them mostly uninspired.

But there was time. Halloween browsing usually starts in mid-July. Stores know this kind of decision making doesn't happen overnight. They plan accordingly. Like right after swimsuit season is over in the Spring.

Still, my kids go down to the wire and eventually come up with stuff so out of the ordinary that even Lady Gaga's designers would have trouble delivering.

This year, in a stroke of inspiration at the break of dawn, a week before the big day, Ittybit appeared at my bedside with grand plans to be a butterfly whisperer.

“You want to whisper to butterflies?”

Her stern look set me straight. No, she will be a girl so sweet and so lovely that she just attracts the fragile insects wherever she goes. They will gather on her clothes, in her hair and drape around her like jewelry.

“She doesn't even wait for the question that is planning to escape after I rub my eyes of sleep.

“Construction paper and hot glue gun.”

It's nice to have a kid who has all the answers.

“Hey … your brother said he's decided he wants to be a superhero skeleton … how can we do that?”

“Oh … he wants to be Metroman when he faked his own death. In the movie, Metroman borrowed a fake skeleton from a nursing school and put it in his cape. You know of any nursing schools?”

“No. But I know where we can borrow a cape.”

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