The Sins of the Grandmother

While we may have had a lot of simple spaghetti dinners growing up, even while she raised three children as a single mother, the one thing my mother never cut corners on was costumes. She would tailor us elaborate, well made costumes with rich fabrics and thoughtful details. I didn’t do pageants, but I did do the costume contest circuit. Naturally, as the economy of parenting dictates, I came to covet the polyester, peeling silkscreen, character-of-the-moment licensed costumes that every one else’s parents picked up at the local Wal-Mart. And after six years of making the costume contest rounds, with plenty of candy bags, savings bonds, and grainy newspaper photos to prove I was a winner, I was ready to retire.

It was a very warm October and the muggy, riverfront heat intensified the acrid smell of cabbage in the air as it mixed with the yeast and salt of cheap beer. YM magazine was still in print, Ronald Reagan was still in office, and a fat little girl was being paraded up and down the streets of Washington, MO dressed as a stuffed pepper. It was 1986, and, if you there to bear witness, the gargantuan side dish you saw throwing herself on the hot pavement along the Oktoberfest parade route was me.

I can see where my mother may have been mislead. To be fair, my only hobby to that point was divesting my closet of all its contents, and making my mother take pictures of each ensemble I assembled throughout the day. So, perhaps it wasn’t a long-shot to think I wouldn’t mind being draped in a green, handmade tarp, drawstring closed at both ends, stuffed with waded up pages of yesterday’s news, and paraded down main street. (This was also back when a newspaper delivered to your door was not directly correlated to Extreme Couponing: I Hoard Five Cent Toothbrushes Edition.)

But with each step tens of thousands of newsprint balls poked, scratched, and clammed against my sweat slicked arms. And with each sob the (presumed to be) fire retardant nylons on my legs trapped more heat to my skin, raising my core temperature to levels safe for eating pork. This was hell, and at six-years-old I was staring straight into the face of the devil.

What would my first grade classmates say when I returned on Monday?  Assuming they weren’t consumed with sadness after learning I’d thrown myself onto the back of an Lions Club float and rode away, leaving my mother and sisters to wonder if the savings bond prize was really worth it, while I lived out my days sorting donated eyewear for the same children whom my mother had sent all of my green vegetables.

So much time has passed since that last contest and that torrid walk down main street – Reagan is now seen through day-glo colored glasses, and according to YM is first and foremost linked to a brand of gangster underwear. Which I can only assume means your nether regions are covered up by Bugsy Seigel’s smirking mugshot.

And as you’ve probably guessed, either the Lion’s Club was disappointed with my sorting skills, or I never quite made it on the back of their float. However, I still am prone to splaying myself on the floor and weeping every time I smell sauerkraut.

I now have a three-going-on-thirty-year-old who loves to play dress up and is growing up in the era of Pinterest. This means if she doesn’t have her own dress up bin, handmade from the reclaimed wood of a French haberdasher’s floors and filled with a variety of gender-neutral costumes lovingly made by hand and very much reminiscent of the very costumes I protested being shoved into as a child, I have failed in my role as an internet-era-mother.

And, because we all turn into our mothers at some point, as I hand whittle a whimsical crown from the sticks I scavenge in our backyard, I plot with delight as I dream up family Halloween costumes, and evil laughter peels from my throat as I plan entries for my children comic book convention costume contests.

damn you Pinterest,