One of the most important things I know about myself is that I am a creative person, but I am not a crafty person.
Some people can pick up a pair of scissors and a piece of construction paper and turn it into something fabulous and original. I can pick up a pair of scissors and a piece of construction paper and turn it into a piece of construction paper with uneven fringe along the edges.
At my childrens’ school, I’m on a committee that hosts a monthly “appreciation” luncheon for the faculty and staff. I am allowed to draft the e-vites and transfer the food onto serving platters. I am not allowed to decorate the table. Further, due to my illegible handwriting, I am also not allowed to label the Chinese take-out containers filled with leftovers that we give the teachers to take home with them.
This is why, as a mother, I dread Halloween. Every year, my children think up elaborate, clever costumes that require sewing and vision and craftiness and beg me to make them. And every year, I end up talking them out of it and buying them something out of the Costume Express catalogue. At the costume parade at school every Halloween, I see them looking longingly at the kids who have brilliant, perfectly-fitting, homemade costumes, while they struggle not to trip on the cheap, polyester getups that I’ve had to safety pin in twelve different places just to get them to stay on. I truly never feel more inadequate as a woman than I do each year on October 31st.
Last Halloween, however, my children both wanted to be sheet ghosts. When I went online to see where I could buy a sheet ghost costume, my daughter put her hands on her hips and gave me a “you-are-pathetic” stare. “It’s a sheet ghost, Mom,” she said. “You have to make it. From a sheet.”
I could see that it was a test. First of all, there’s never been a time in the history of their existence when they both wanted to do the same thing, let alone be the same thing for Halloween. Second of all, my son was a ninja for three straight years in a row and was, at the time, obsessed with Pokemon. Yet he just coincidentally wanted to be a sheet ghost for Halloween? I couldn’t even imagine what she bribed him with to get him to go along, but it must have been really good. Third, I could tell that they didn’t think I could pull it off. So of course, I had to prove to them that I could.
We went to Jo-Ann Fabric (points for me for even knowing a crafty place like that exists) and we picked out a white, satin-ish fabric. I carried the bolt (I know it’s called that because I watch Project Runway) to the front desk and the woman asked me how many yards I needed. I, of course, had no freaking idea how many yards I needed, but I wasn’t about to let my kids know that.
So I was all, well, I’m making sheet ghost costumes for them, so I probably need… I pretended to calculate in my head while I waited for the woman to jump in and save me, which she did, because the line was really long and I could hear the people behind me sighing impatiently. “About five yards, I think,” she told me. And I was all, “yes, five yards, that’s exactly what I was thinking.” Then we picked out some black mesh for the eye and mouth holes, I bought some black thread, and we went home to start getting crafty.
So. I draped the fabric over my daughter and tried to figure out exactly where the eye and mouth holes should go so that she’d be able to see and breathe, then did the same for my son. I cut out the holes, then cut out slightly bigger pieces of the black mesh fabric to sew behind the holes. All of this sounds very simple, I know, but it took me like, nineteen hours to complete this, and somewhere along the way I miscalculated, so the eyes ended up being like, a foot farther apart than they should have been, and the mouth ended up being kind of where their esophagi are. So it was awesome that their necks and ears got some ventilation, and slightly less awesome that they couldn’t see or breathe. Oh, and I also forgot to make armholes, so they couldn’t use their hands at all, either.
At the costume parade, my son nearly killed himself walking up the steps to the stage – blind and unable to use his hands to guide him – and after five minutes my daughter was all sweaty and nearly in tears because she couldn’t get any air. But the good news was, since their eyes were completely covered by fabric, they weren’t able to see all of their friends’ brilliant, crafty, perfectly-fitting, homemade costumes. A win-win for everyone, I’d say. A roaring success. And the best news of all is that, this year, they haven’t even asked me to make them costumes.