Happy holidays, you guys! I know most people use that phrase in December, but in my family, Halloween is the holidays.
Growing up, I always had pretty great homemade costumes. After all, we were theater people. The costumes were designed to be really cute, and to hide layers of clothes in case it was freezing on Halloween. (No daughter of my mother was going to go out with a coat covering up her costume!)
After my brother Preston was born in 2005, my mom took her costuming to a new level. And so did I. While I enjoyed Halloween as a kid, it was actually as a young adult that I began to bond with my mom over it. It became a new family tradition and a way for me to feel close to her and my new baby brother. When you have two children who are nineteen years apart in age, the relationship is often not very sibling-like. And since I missed out on the opportunity to have those naked sibling bath time photos that everyone else has from their childhood, I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to share Halloween with my little brother.
When I was in college, my mom would dress Preston up in one of his amazing costumes and bring him to Safe Halloween, a block-party-like Halloween event that the Greek community at MSU put on each year. Over the years, Preston went to Safe Halloween dressed as a Navy seal, a deviled egg, and a ghost train. (He wanted to be a train. My mom was like, “Just a train? Yeah, I don’t think so.”)
At the same time she was making punny little costumes for her son, she was making slutty little costumes for her daughter. When I was a senior in college, she made me my favorite costume of all time: the sexy iPod. The Apple logo I requested she add on the lower back of the dress was the perfect sorority girl touch, and a sign that I had inherited my mom’s attention to detail with regard to costumes.
(The sad thing is that while I could probably actually fit into that costume now, the technology that inspired it is completely obsolete.)
When she wasn’t helping me excel at Slutoween, my mom was winning national contests with costumes like the couch potato and the Wild Things costumes she made for my brother and cousins to wear (which, I’m told, are pretty big on Pinterest).
She also still found time to make inanimate objects sexy for her firstborn.
When I started dating Eric in 2010, I suddenly had the opportunity to play with something I’d never had access to before: couples costumes. The downside was that I was now living thirteen hundred miles from home in a climate that made me straight up forget that Halloween was approaching. But Eric knew how much I love Halloween and how happy my family was to make him a part of our Halloween costume tradition, so he flew with me to Michigan for our first Halloween together so he could be the headlights to my deer.
The working headlights, real windshield wiper, and air freshener were my mom’s special touches on his truck costume. This was also the year I figured out that I really love costumes with elaborate headpieces.
The following year, my mom made our costumes again; this time, he was the bull to my china shop. You break it, you buy it.
That was the same year my brother had decided Johnny Depp was his hero, and my mom made him an incredibly detailed Jack Sparrow costume. (Though the tipsy walk was all Preston’s.)
In 2012, I realized that traveling to Michigan for Halloween wasn’t going to be an option, which was far harder for me to accept than our decision to not go to either of our respective homes for Christmas that year. To help me cope with the fact that I wasn’t going to be with my family for my real family holiday, we decided to host a Halloween party in our new house. (Nothing could help with the fact that I would punch a baby in the face if it meant I could experience crisp October air here in Houston.) It was also the first year that Eric and I made our own costumes without any help from my mom, but we did our best on our own. He went as Bob Ross, and I went as a happy little tree. (If Kate Middleton were a tree.)
Meanwhile, Preston was a bellhop for a haunted hotel, and while it’s hard to see the detail work from these photos, I think this was one of my mom’s best costumes to date.
But 2013 was the first year when I just felt really uninspired. I didn’t have any immediate ideas for a couples costume, and watching our budget carefully for the wedding meant we couldn’t throw a Halloween party or spend a ton on our costumes. I put off thinking about it, and by last Friday, I was ready to just opt out of Halloween entirely for 2013. But Eric wouldn’t allow it. So we spent most of our weekend running to Target and Joann’s, wrestling with foam, and burning our fingers with hot glue. My mom was making my brother’s costume on Saturday as well, and we texted all day. Thanks to technology, it really felt like we were making the costumes together.
Eric and I did opt out of doing a couples costume, which was fine by me—there was something I had wanted to be for a while, I couldn’t think of a good counterpart of it, and I wasn’t about to let my relationship hold me back. By Saturday night, I had completed most of a perfectly respectable no-sew nutcracker costume, including the made-from-scratch twelve-inch-tall hat that was the whole reason I wanted to be a nutcracker in the first place.
I kept my costume simple so I could put my energy into working on Eric’s costume… which, I could tell, even when it was still a work in progress on Sunday, was the first costume I’ve made without my mom’s help wherein I truly feel like I’m making her proud.
On Tuesday night, as I cut a square of black felt to cover the safety pin that is tucked inside the tornado to anchor the tulle to the foam, I knew I was doing it because it was the exact thing my mom would have done. As I hot glued tulle to his leggings and made every attempt not to burn his junk, I had the sense of, This is something I’ll remember. This is a thing that I do, that my family does, and now Eric and I do it too. And when I was helping him finish the costume at 10:00 last night whilst nursing a serious burn on my thumb (glue guns are no joke, you guys) because he had insisted on adding more complex details to the costume to make it even more amazing—something my mom does every year and it drives me crazy—it was a clear, “Welp… welcome to the family tradition, Eric,” moment.
Also, I think now that we’ve demonstrated our commitment to the family tradition through some pretty legit hot glue craftsmanship that left both of us without fingertips, we’re going to earn ourselves our very first sewing machine for Christmas. Happy holidays indeed.
Photos from Rachel’s personal collection