The Importance of the Holidays
Holiday traditions are like strands weaving one generation into the next – and handmade Halloween costumes are some of the most vibrant fibers in the fabric of cherished family memories.
Halloween always has been one of my favorite times; it’s the prelude for the holiday season to come. Cooler days bring the first welcoming ritual. My summer flowers are pretty burnt out by September; freshening up my doorway with mums, cabbage, and pumpkins is a joyous way to kick-off tradition. But one of my fondest childhood memories were the costumes my mother made. She’d pull out her old Singer sewing machine—it was like a dinosaur with a heavy metal foot pedal—and we’d go to our local fabric store and pick out a costume pattern and fabric. My mom was a total artist and worked like one, too. Our dining room table would become the canvas for October: Fabric, pins, and stuffing layered that rickety old table. She would turn me and my siblings into whatever magical creatures we desired to run the neighborhood with our friends.
Passing on Tradition
My mother never lost interest in this tradition; it only grew with excitement when she became a grandmother. My mother would welcome family and friends for Halloween fun, prepping the house for trick or treaters, making a big pot of chili or sloppy joes to warm up after an evening of trick or treating. The joy I saw in her watching her grandkids enjoy the costumes she made for us left a lasting impact on me, so when I became a mother, I wanted nothing more than to start this tradition for my family.
Homemade Costume 101
Like my mother, I am super creative; however, I lack the patience and skill to sew. The fall that my son was in pre-K, I was in my typical crazy pumpkin spice gal mode, decking the halls in everything that signified autumn. All my son could talk about was monkeys, so of course, that meant a monkey costume. Hoping I would come across one in my mother’s cedar chest—which homed decades of costumes—I dug deep, rummaging through piles of fabric but having no luck.
I wanted nothing more than to pass along one of my favorite memories to my son; however, my mother was so busy making costumes for her other grandchildren, I decided to attempt to make one on my own. I told her during one of our daily chats, and to my surprise she chuckled, knowing very well sewing was not in my blood, and graciously stepped aside. I felt like a pilot receiving clearing to land!
I was off to the races with a little less than three weeks to spare. I flew to the fabric store, hoping and praying I could find a monkey pattern. I scoured the aisles top to bottom until I came upon the patterns section. Holy smokes, I felt like Indiana Jones when he found the ark. I pulled my lasso out and swooped up the last McCall’s Pattern for a monkey costume. I immediately began to survey the fabric aisles for the fuzziest brown fur and hit the jackpot, Cha-Ching! With a quick swipe of my credit card, a sense of premature achievement swept my body. I imagined my son sneaking peeks as his mother confidently created a masterpiece on her never-used sewing machine.
Needless to say, my attempt was something just short of a disaster. These patterns were foreign to me—numbers and dashes everywhere! I was sitting there totally perplexed. My husband was laughing his ass off! I was cutting and pinning and listening to him chuckle at the sight of my poor attempt to figure this out. Comments of “Are you sure you don’t want to call your mother?” were being tossed around the kitchen next to me. Ignoring his banter, I plugged away.
With a week left, I did panic. I picked up the phone and called my mom. There was the obvious chitchat before I broke down and sheepishly asked for help. This woman was nothing short of amazing and jumped right in to save my ass. Sweet baby Jesus! I grabbed the biggest tote I could find and literally swept off my dining room table into it. I was on my way to my momma’s house.
I rushed through her front door and there she sat criss-cross applesauce as always with a coffee cup, so peaceful and content. She shook her head at the bin of chaos I brought; we cleared her table of the other costumes she was making. We laughed and gabbed about everything. I could hear my grandmother in the other room, giggling at my attempt to sew—explaining to me how simple it is, how her mother was a seamstress in London during the Depression.
Fast forward: My mother whipped that baby together in 12 hours, and my son got to bounce from house to house draped in fuzzy brown fabric. Everyone oohed and aahed as his monkey tail flipped and flopped behind him. Lesson learned. It’s not always best to screw with traditions; we keep them for a reason, cataloging the memories. My foolish attempt was a blessing in disguise; it brought three generations of women together to create something for this precious little boy. The memory I have of my mother saving my butt will always be with me.
What resonates strongly in my heart is that she is no longer with us, but these costumes are. Each year, the grandkids still pick a costume out of the cedar chest. They run their own neighborhoods every Halloween draped in the love she put into them and the nostalgia we hold from wearing them.