Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Real Deal

From the bean of Green Bean.

I sat cross-legged on the floor, with a thrift store shirt six sizes too big in my lap. It was the right shade of green, my littlest and I had noted and so we bought it. He wore it with the sleeves rolled WAY up and that was good enough. My hand dipped in and out, the needle moving methodically around the white circle. Next to me, the little guy pursed his lips as he practiced threading his own needle.

We were working on his Halloween costume. Oh, I know. Halloween is over. It's on to the deadening march toward the election, Thanksgiving, and the December holidays.

But for me and my son, we're still reveling in Halloween. In his homemade costume. Pieced together from a rag, a spare button from my husband's pair of pants, some white felt leftover from a Christmas project, and a too big thrift store shirt. My son had chosen to be an astronaut alien. Don't ask me what that is but his big brother is being an astronaut and so . . .

We sewed a giant eyeball on his shirt and painted the one new item - a plastic helmet - green, glue-gunning goggly eyes all over its surface. Those were the same googly eyes that relentlessly feel off of the millions of art projects my boys have dragged home over the years. Collecting them in a plastic bag was worth it, by the look on my son's face. Delighted. Ecstatic. Proud.

There is something in a homemade costume . . . or a loaf bread, or a birthday cake, or a winter scarf. There is a sense of meaning, of memory, that permeates the article. You or someone you know put their hands on it, their love and life force into it.

In mentally flipping through all the Christmases I've enjoyed, I remember only the gifts that were made for me. The wooden dollhouse that my dad spent hours constructing. The Egyptian beetle he carved for me when I was going through my King Tut phase. The Emergency medical kit that my uncle created from a cardboard box, black spray paint and a few surplus medical supplies. I'm sure there were books or Barbies in there. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall them.

In the last several decades, our society has tilted toward convenience and turned its back on the homemade. Everything is done for us. Realistic costumes line Target's aisles. Bread is bagged. Birthday cakes spray-paintedly proclaim our child's allegiance to Darth Vader or Princess Jasmine. Lunches come in plastic boxes, ready to be tossed after we've consumed the enclosed perfectly lathed "baby carrots" and peanut butter sandwich.

Convenience promised us more time. For what? For ourselves? For manicures or coffee with friends? Or more shopping? Or more television? Or this thing, the Internet. But convenience didn't deliver. Moreover, it stole from us what was most valuable, what is most needed.

Our meaning.

Our pride of ownership, of creation, of investment.

Our authenticity.

As my son walked out the door in his - one of a kind, never to be duplicated, stuffed full of memory and impromptu sewing lessons - astronaut alien costume, I realized that in making that costume we reclaimed that part of ourselves that was lost. We created memories. We discovered pride. We constructed meaning.

This year, this Halloween was the real deal.


ruchi aka arduous said...

What a cool costume!! You're right ... the best costumes aren't the ones that come in plastic bags ready made from Target. I remember, one year when I was obsessed with sunflowers, I spray painted an old flower pot costume of my sisters orange so I could go as a sunflower. I still remember spray painting the costume with my friend. :)

ruchi aka arduous said...

P.S. Also, you need to stop with this insanity. How is it you make all your food from scratch, you make costumes from scratch, you volunteer at your son's school, you blog, and every damn time I see you, you look super put together and without a hair out of place!!! You are making the rest of us crazy disorganized people look bad!!!

greeen sheeep said...

That's a great costume! I love it.

We went homemade this year, too. Old clothes and things laying around the house. Chitlins didn't seem to mind a bit.

fullfreezer said...

Great costume! Love those google eyes, I also have the collection of lost eyes. My youngest (8) went as a mattress tag this year. You know... not to be removed under penalty of law except by consumer. Old poster board and a marker. He even won a prize at a party for most creative.

JessTrev said...

LOVE this! My kid went low maintenance - butterfly with leotard + wings from dress up box. 2nd year in a row - afraid to break the karma cause it's so beautifully easy. But the project-lover in me (and, frankly, the fun-lover) thinks yr spacesuit ROCKS! Love the sounds of the mattress tag too.

Burbanmom said...

That's the best damn astronaut alien costume I've ever seen!

Ethan was "homemade" this year too. And his magician outfit looked way better than his sister's store-bought Tinkerbell costume from her dress-up chest(but don't tell her that!)

Joyce said...

The googly eyes make it!
This was always a big production at our house, since my husband is an artist, so the month of October was costume making, just like January was Pinewood Derby car production. Messy but fun. This year my grown daughter went to Goodwill and somehow created an Octoberfest Bier-Madchen outfit. It was pretty good!

Green Bean said...

Ruchi: See!! You are my proof that making your own costume creates memories. :) And, pshaw! You've never been to my house. It looks like a bomb went off, continually.

Greeen Sheeep: I think your kids are older so I'm glad to hear they still enjoy homemade.

Fullfreezer: How cute is that?!? It's all about imagination, isn't it?

JessTrev: Hey, we did two years back to back of Thomas. I was happy to bust out of that rut.

Burbs: Thank you! I'll bet Ethan was one of a kind.

Joyce: Yes! I thought the googly eyes were the coup de grace as well. :)

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