All I wanted to find were the pumpkin lights to hang outside. It was Saturday and finally felt like fall. Hurriedly, I cracked open the plastic box and smiled as obnoxiously bright orangish-red curls exploded into my face. She was about 11 when she wore that, I thought. I never saw that coming – she was usually so reserved, so modest. I unwound a sparkly silver and pink princess tiara caught in the curls and slipped back in time to moments I thought would never end, to those October afternoons spent nurturing her dreams, spent coaxing out another side of herself.
The plastic presidential hopeful mask came next, squished under a handmade ceramic black cat. Not too long ago he confidently walked the town with his ‘binder-full-of-women’, confusing most children but eliciting guffaws from the adults.
He always had a dry sense of humor, even at ten. I didn’t realize then that it would be his last one.
She started as a teddy bear, snuggled up in gender-neutral brown furry suit that partially covered her bald four-month-old head. At the last minute I remember pinning on a tiny pink polka-dotted bow just for fun.
I had no idea when I first zipped him into his chili pepper suit at five-weeks-old what he would dream about fifteen years later. His tiny, premature body sunk into the red felt; only his generously-sized head kept the costume from slipping off entirely.
At three she refused to remove her fire-engine red patent leather boots, so my sister created a masterful ladybug backpack when, worn over black leggings and a long sleeve turtleneck, showcased her rapidly energetic personality. Amazingly, the headband antennae stayed atop her head the entire day.
I think Bob-The-Builder was his favorite. Never had I seen him believe so strongly in his alter-ego. He scurried around town that year in his plastic yellow helmet, tools banging against his little overall-clad legs, singing at the top of his lungs.
He wore that yellow hat until it cracked in half and no duct tape would keep it together. That was a sad day.
I unfold a tiny white hand print nestled in bubble wrap, ceramic edges rough enough to reveal the artist’s age. I nestle my fingers into hers. She really was that small, wasn’t she?
I don’t remember every costume in between. There were dozens between the two of them – spiders and firefighters, Dorothy and several witch variations – even George Bush during the election years (my son’s wry sense of humor). Now, those moments are buried, memories triggered by photos in an album or a glimpse of glitter at the bottom of the box. They are all there, somewhere, stored in a place where they can be retrieved someday, but not everyday. Was her last one in high school, dressed as a cowgirl with her best friend? How could I forget the pirate in rubber fireboots? How have these moments escaped me? Extraordinary in their ordinariness, they flicker with time like a fading, silent movie reel.
This may be the first year without costumes. They’ve both moved on, figuring out who they are and living their dreams in reality, without masks or face paint. Her tiara still shines on her head 600 miles away – I’m sure of that.
And so the years melted together, moments of Halloween joy captured behind glass and squished into plastic boxes. Not sure why, or what I think I’ll do with those fading clown wigs or teeny tiny hula skirts. All I do know for sure are those moments, those ordinary days in the life of a young mother, mark the extraordinary unfolding of a life I had no idea was happening. These are the moments I will look back on with wonder, moments I wish could have lasted just a second longer. Moments I wish I knew how much I would miss.
We hung the pumpkin lights ourselves this year, just the two of us. At twilight they make me smile. I hope some other young mom to pauses for a moment outside our front walk, glimpses at their beauty, and hugs her baby in the beauty of the moment. No selfies, no photos. Just a simple hug, maybe a kiss to the forehead, and a memory to etch in her heart.
Dear readers, what ordinary moments do you remember from Halloween costumes? Please share in the comments!