Halloween has been central to my life since before I can remember. I was born within a few days of October 31st and have had an affinity for the holiday ever since. It is one of the most creative times of the year for me and it holds a special place in my heart.
In kindergarten I took to wearing my queen cape (a ratty piece of blue fabric) and tinfoil crowns to school every day. I was Queen Kristin and apparently was not going to let anyone forget it. (I apparently skipped over the whole 'princess' stage-- going right for the throne. My mom still has one of my first legible writing samples-- I was Queen Kristin there also.)
I remember several of my Halloween-themed birthday parties when I was a kid. I don't know if they were annual events or if the one or two I can remember just stand out in my mind.
By the time I got to Junior High School I was making my own costumes. My sewing skills were always out stripped by my imagination, but that never stopped me. The one time I branched out and helped a friend make her costume was much more successful-- not only was she recognizable as a nun, she won third place at the costume contest at the school dance. My own costume-- Guinevere from the King Aurthur legends did not fare as well.
Wyoming weather offered an additional stumbling block to the would-be costumer. It invariably snowed or dropped to 20 degrees below zero on Halloween. It is very difficult to float about in the diaphanous robes of Aphrodite while wearing snow boots and a heavy coat. I remember leaving my coat with my mom walking up the drive to show off my handiwork to a bewildered neighbor (“Now what are you, dear?”) and scampering back to wrap myself up for the walk to the next house down the block.
During that time in my life, the candy was just a bonus, what I really craved was the connection I felt when someone guessed what my costume was.
When I went off to college I was lucky enough to meet and become fast friends with a fellow costume fiend. While I still favored obscure themes and characters, she helped me learn how to sew (I bought my first and only sewing machine while in college-- it still runs to this day) and more importantly she taught me how to research an idea and refine it-- a skill that can be applied to other creative endeavors.
It was also in college that another Halloween/birthday tradition got started. Another friend, on a whim, made a piñata and brought it to my birthday party. The man who was to become my husband figured out how to rig it between our balcony and a tree so we could take turns swinging at it blindfolded-- eventually cracking it open, without too much damage to the local flora.
Now I have a nearly-10-year-old son who has had a Halloween costume every year (he was a frog when he was 10 months old (a green sweat suit with 'Kermit' style ping-pong eyes sewn to the hood of the sweatshirt). By the time he was going-on-three he was giving “Aunite” (my college-costume-friend and now housemate) detailed instructions on what his costume should look like. Kitties ruled for several years, then dinosaurs, last year he was a preying mantis and this year he will be the Lorax who speaks for the trees.
The penchant for dressing up never left me. For all that I sometimes felt stupid, insecure, or awkward when I would go out Trick or Treating as a child (and particularly as a young woman) the impulse to create always overwhelmed those other, more negative feelings. Each Halloween was a clean slate, a chance to try again and see if I could do better. When I got to college and found like-minded friends I blossomed.
My birthday party has evolved into a Halloween party for family, friends, and neighbors. And while the theme changes every year we always have a piñata. Auntie and I consult on the design, I build the armature and do the mache work. Auntie paints it (frequently with help from my son) using her theater background to bring flour and newsprint to life. My husband rigs the piñata for hanging in our carport and once the party is underway, gives the annual safety lecture before we blindfold our guest and let them swing like mad at our joint creation.