When I was a wee child, my dad was the chef/gardener/tailor of the house. He’s a jack-of-all-trades, my dad, and one year he decided my sister K and I were going to be bugs for Halloween. In my house growing up, store-bought costumes were for sissies. At our house, you made your costume and you made something creative, bygod. My father is, if you have never met him, endlessly self-deprecating, incredibly smart, and the most creative person I think I know. He’s like MacGuyver only he’s my dad, and he was a big part of the costumery.
Armed with his Singer sewing machine (my mom used to sew when I was very very wee), several yards of thin canvas, and a couple cans of spray paint, he fashioned two bug costumes. My sister K’s was a bright yellow caterpillar with black stripes. She had little deelie-bobbers for antenna on her head, and her costume even had a bunch of little caterpillar-y legs down the side. It was adorable. It is widely acknowledged that K was an adorable child. I, on the other hand, had an unfortunate awkward phase that started in preschool and ended when I was about 25.
Dad made me a spider suit. Well…not like a Spiderman spider suit. Nothing so sleek and lithe. I was the Ginormous Spider that Ate Manhattan, DC, and most of Poughkeepsie. I’ll try to do this costume justice in my description, but nothing I write here will help your mind’s eye see the awesome red orb of spiderosity that was me, Halloween circa 1987.
The body of the was like a hockey puck with a space in the middle for my head and lower half, and four overlylong legs splayed out from the body. (The real problem with this costume was the stuffing. There was too much. Even Dad admitted that later, but what can you do?) There were sleeves that covered my real arms but by lifting my arms I could engage the other four legs strung together with monofilament fishing line – strong but invisible so that when I waved them, you might have clutched your children close and whispered, “Sweet baby Jesus, that is one big-ass spider!”
I also had deelie bobbers and since my legs were sticking out and thus part of my overall look, I wore red tights and over them, my shiny burgundy running shorts because God knows it’s more embarrassing if they can see your knickers. I wore my favorite pale blue Kangaroos, the ones with the little pocket on the side. Of course, this was years before I got contacts so I was also sporting my large Sally Jesse purple glasses.
The effect could not have been complete without my mother’s final touch. She sold Mary Kay at the time and in an effort to use things we had on hand, she added food coloring to MK’s signature masque – a Halloween costume that’s good for your skin, too! K’s was pretty yellow, but somehow mine only got to be a Pepto shade of pink instead of nice deep red to match my deep red spider costume.
Off we went, me, K, and my mother, into the dusk, as Dad standing watch at the front door and manning the candy bowl. Just beyond our yard, I realized my left Kangaroo had come untied and I bent down to tie it.
At least when I lost my balance – frankly, it was as if the planet Mars had sprouted legs and a head and fell to earth to go trickertreating and I wasn’t used to the shift in gravity – there was plenty of cushioning to break the fall. On my back, I rolled from side to side, trying to gather enough momentum to eventually roll all the way up and back on my feet. No luck, dear reader, and the best I could manage was to flail my various appendages – stuffed legs and fleshy limbs alike – vigorously to the amusement of my parental unit and sibling.
They laughed and they laughed and they blew the house down, but Humpty Dumpty still couldn’t get off the sidewalk. My father, sealed behind the storm door of our Cape Cod, double in a silent fit of giggles. I finally blurted helplessly, “I cannot get up! Help!” And when my sister and mother finally righted this upturned and rotund arachnid, I had a few leaves stuck to my Mary Kay face masque. The horror.
The rest of the evening was really fine, but then we realized that food coloring hardened on one’s skin in a face masque does not remove easily and I appeared to have been sunburned for a week.