It’s almost the middle of November. I’m planning Thanksgiving meal contributions around the enormous share of vegetables we hauled home from our CSA this evening. Ada loves to walk down the long tables the farmer sets up — and I mean on the tables — to help put the food into our bags. She got a little distracted and encumbered by a monster carrot she was grappling with, so I had to load up the garlic and the rutabagas and celeriac by myself, but the carrot went back into the bag in a twinkling when I told her we got to choose a pumpkin, too. It is a pumpkin destined for pie and not for an alligator carving (her idea), but these finer points are quite lost on my child. Halloween, such as she understands it, is still looming large in the imagination. And really, it’s going to be Halloween all winter long at our house, so I might as well write about it two weeks after the fact. Here’s why:
Behold, a tiny viking! Jolyon grew into this hat, a gift from a friend who can wield a crochet hook far better than I ever will, just in time for Halloween. Luckily he is also of an age to grab things with decent speed and accuracy, which seems like an important base skill for plundering. On the day, I made him a matching battle axe out of our smallest spatula. He gripped and swung it with enthusiasm, although when he bit it the tinfoil made him cry. There’s no way we’re reserving this hat for one night of his life. It’s far too cute. In fact, that was my whole attitude toward Halloween this year.
Growing up, I had the most elaborate and imaginative costumes of any kid in town. My mother does nothing by halves, and she really poured her heart into Halloween. I can’t tell you how many nights she stayed up bending chicken wire, cardboard, papier mache, fabrics, and other materiel to her creative vision. It must have been Fantasia at her work table in the bedroom, and somehow my father slept through all of it. Colossal sculptures emerged. It was like suiting up for a joust. You needed attendants to hoist half a humpback whale skyward and then lower it onto you, helping you find the straps to the rigging that would support the massive creature on your little shoulders, helping you find the eye holes concealed in the baleen, bending the chicken wire strategically so it wouldn’t bark your ankles too badly as you blundered through town in the school parade among the witches and ghosts and superheroes as a life-like cetacean breaching out of the sidewalk. When I was five and my brother was two, we were jointly the Loch Ness monster. It filled our Volkswagen van. I was the front end, and now that I have a two-year-old of my own I think it’s a miracle my brother was able to toddle along within the tail. As we got older, outrageous requests — a haunted castle! a piano! the Headless Horseman, complete with horse! — only spurred her to greater heights. It would be madness and possibly suicide to attempt to play at her level.
I figure I’ll aim for a steady, year-round simmer in making stuff for my kids instead. I look forward to the day when they can craft their own Halloween and dress-up costumes, and while I’m in charge I think my efforts will go toward making things that can live a useful life beyond a few October nights. For Ada, I knit a tiger bonnet. The child doesn’t like to wear hats, at least not for the function of keeping her head warm when she’s playing outdoors in winter. So I bent my maternal and knitterly wiles to making a really irresistible tiger. I lined it with the coziest fleece. I gave it fuzzy ears thrummed with wool roving. I made it many sizes too large so she can wear it every winter until she’s twelve if she wants to. The rest of the costume was completely slapdash, although I did knit a pretty enchanting tail that’s now pinned to the hem of her purple jacket. There will be better pictures to come, but for now, this shot from the playground is proof that my sly tricks have worked:
(Also, we made it one more year without revealing to her that candy is edible. Yessssss.) All this is not to knock commercial Halloween costumes, however. My friend Robin found a caterpillar at Goodwill and couldn’t resist buying it for Jolly. I’ll let you be the judge, but I think it may equal the viking for cuteness. And all that stuffing will be good in lieu of a snowsuit if we get a sudden cold snap.