I was the kid who wanted to be a spider for Halloween. Because of my lifelong obsession with Charlotte and her web, this was less scary insect and more hero worship. The adoration extended to my belief that my mother could make my costume exactly as I saw it in my head. When she finished the initial prototype – complete with knee sock legs hanging down the sides of my body and a corduroy hood with eight distinct purple felt eyes – no one could tell what I was. Undaunted, my mother devised a thread from my wrist, through the sock legs and tied to my waist. When I lifted my arms, the legs fanned and could be counted, one, two … eight! Better. Then she got a gleam in her eye. She cut out a giant red hourglass and attached it to my chest. Now I was a black widow. Unmistakable arachnid. My mother was triumphant.
I have carried on my mother’s ingenuity with gusto. Any character my children could imagine? Bring it on! At first the challenge was to make costumes that were comfortable and age appropriate like soft little dinosaurs and furry creatures. But soon they requested whatever they were interested in at the time: a Pokemon with three heads, a smog monster from an anime movie, even arcane literary characters like Dr. Moriarty. When my children grew older, I made costumes for other people’s kids. Medusa? A headdress with moving snakes and glowing eyes. Tooth Fairy? A crown and wand made of glittering toothbrushes. Anything to make kids happy, right?
Not really. True confessions, I just want to see if I can do it. I am driven by a diabolical desire to push myself to create the uncreatable. And if peer pressure prompted my poor children to ask for something I deemed not intriguing enough, “Mom, this year I want to be a hobo!” I tried not to judge them too harshly. I patiently negotiated. “Hmmm, that is one idea, but what about a hobo harlequin from the 12th century with bubonic plague? That could be interesting …” Already I am designing shabby diamond fabric and sores in my mind.
We do a lot for those we love. We get up and make breakfast after being woken up 7 times the night before. We sit through endless sports tournaments in the heat and cold and cheer them to win in spite of knowing that will mean yet another game. We attentively listen to off key voices sing through the same choral pieces we hated when we were young. We are altruistic, sacrificing caregivers to our kids, nieces, nephews, friends and church members. Most of the time.
But sometimes, we do stuff that looks like it is for other people and really it is just for us. We get “credit” but we love it too much for it to feel like work or obligation. Maybe it is cooking an amazing dinner, or being the president of an organization, or gardening and canning what we grow. We all have that superpower that when activated, feels like we are saving the world and starring in our own movie at the same time. For me, this is making Halloween costumes. Inside there is a mad scientist wringing her hands and saying, I can do this. And when the other kids say, “cool costume” and my kid says “my mom made it,” I gloat. I do. No selfless Mr. Miyagi smile at the end of Karate Kid, instead, a silent, pure maniacal cackle. I did that and it is indeed cool.
So this Halloween I am celebrating the Victor Frankenstein in all of us. Doing a seemingly impossible thing, not because it is right, or sensible, or a giving thing to do, even though it may look like it, but because we want to, because we can, because it makes us happy, because we rock at it. Because you want to be a video game character in three different incarnations? Bam. I am on it.