This year my almost-four-year-old Cavanaugh decided he wanted to be a pumpkin for Halloween. Why? What inspired it?
He says, “Pumpkins are on houses at Halloween.”
So, I started looking for costumes in thrift stores, at Target, but the round pumpkin costumes seemed to come only in very small toddler sizes, and for puppy dogs.
Then Cavanaugh and his dad found a pumpkin at Goodwill. I met them there to check it out. It was roundish because of curved seams but had no filling. It velcroed at the neck. I thought I could just stuff it and voila, a pumpkin!
My neighbor loaned me her machine and Cavanaugh and I made a trip to the fabric store. We bought muslin for lining, and pillow batting for filling. Then we made a trip to Hobby Lobby because the orange felt at Joann Fabric didn’t match our pumpkin. Then we went back to Joann’s because Hobby Lobby’s felt matched even less.
Then it turned out to be missing some side panels, and the velcro made Cavanaugh’s neck itch. But by then, I’d spent $7.50 on the costume, another $10 on felt, filling, and fabric and had started cutting the new stuff and removing seams from the original costume.
All of this might lead you to believe I actually know what I’m doing, but that is so far from the truth. My Granny Analia taught me just enough to be dangerous. I can baste a seam. I can pin fabric together, feed it through a machine, and make guesses about thread tension that are close enough to keep everything together. I can read the diagram from a sewing machine instruction booklet.
When I was ten, I took a sewing class and made myself a purple terry cloth strapless short-suit (it was 1980). That was one of the only times I’ve ever sewn anything from a pattern.
The last time I sewed anything with a machine was curtains from IKEA that had to be hemmed to fit our windows. I added blackout fabric lining. It took three weeks to do four curtain panels. They are not even. I hung one rod higher than the other so that the curtains don’t puddle on the floor. I am no seamstress.
This costume was guesswork in which I put the muslin or new felt piece over the original costume to use as models for the new panels. I cannot tell you how many seams I sewed and ripped out. Probably less than 20, definitely more than 10.
It did not help that anytime I asked Cavanaugh to try it on, he spun around in circles or pointed his chin at the ceiling to push the velcro off the back of his neck.
I would like to say I remained calm, that I maintained a cool-mother, it’s all about the fun, it’s his Halloween costume vibe throughout the whole project but I would be lying. Snippets of my snappiness include, “If you can’t wear the pumpkin long enough to try it on, then maybe you just don’t want a costume” and “Maybe we need to skip Halloween this year.”
It did not help my ego that after I snapped, Cavanaugh looked at me in happy sincerity and asked, “Mama, am I going to be a pumpkin as big as the moon?”
I finally talked to some friends and repeated my angry words and admitted that I felt like a horrible mother. Maybe it was admitting my failures out loud. Or that I really wanted to remember that it wasn’t about a perfect costume. It was about having a happy kid and making him the pumpkin costume as round and big as the moon in a way that either one of us would want to remember.
I was (mostly) able to put my frustration down. At least, after that, I would say, “I’m feeling very frustrated right now because I’m trying to learn how to do something I don’t know how to do, and it’s hard.”
I started turning on music while I sewed and he built pirate ships out of Legos on the table next to my machine. He put straight pins back into the tomato pincushion. He helped stuff the batting into the costume liner. It got more fun.
Around Thursday, I realized that the costume was so heavy with filling that the likelihood was high Cavanaugh wouldn’t be wearing the pumpkin at all.
Even though I’d taken out the velcro and put in a button to stop the itching. Even though, all told, I had spent over 20 hours sewing the thing.
I cinched the lining, removed batting, added a back panel and four more buttons. I learned how to make buttonhole stitches with the machine. I asked Cavanaugh to try on the costume at least eight more times.
Halloween morning, when I only had one more button to sew, Cavanaugh climbed up onto the chair and reached across the sewing table for candy corn. He slipped, spilled my cup of coffee on his head, down his clothes, and onto the fabric remnants on the floor, but missed the costume entirely. He cried as I took off his wet clothes. He wasn’t hurt so much as scared I think, scared of falling, scared the costume wan’t okay. I didn’t yell or snap or threaten to unmake Halloween. I hugged him, called our roommate for help, then cleaned up the coffee puddles and kept sewing.
About an hour before our Halloween party, I went to Target and bought an orange shirt, which I glued black felt triangles and a zigzag mouth to in case he just didn’t want to wear his moon-round pumpkin. I wasn’t going to be mad, or even disappointed. We could always use it as a porch decoration for Halloweens to come.
He didn’t want to wear the jack-0-lantern shirt. “I’m too hot Mama.” So, I gave him an orange shirt and orange shorts.
But he asked for the costume as we left the house to trick or treat. He wore it the whole time!
As he got ready for bed, I called him “Little pumpkin,” and he said, “I’m not a pumpkin anymore Mama. Next year, I’m going to be broccoli.”
Do you make your kid’s costumes or buy them? Can you share any antics, successes, failures? Tell me a story.