Nightmare on Sesame Street: Part One


Vision? Like a horse with blinders.

Oxygen? At about 30%.

Atmosphere? A candy corn-scented fog clung to the inside of the mask.

Mobility? Shoes, a size too large.

Comfort? Hair sweaty and neck officially itchy...

All riiiight! Welcome to Halloween in Kiddom!

Every year, my mother and I looked forward to this special day. And every season, Mom's Singer sewing machine sung with the joy of mad transformation.

While I was in it purely for the candy, my mother, well, she was motivated by something far greater, more noble-- costume design immortality.

With my hometown Halloween contest well in her sights, year after year, my mother concocted new, more elaborate creations destined to imprint our family name in the town annals of Homemade Costume Glory.

The imagination and execution of her work were beyond compare. Material, yarn, paint and chickenwire... it all bowed to her genius.

One year, I was a Cabbage Patch Kid-- fully-encased in footy pajamas crafted of doll cloth and stuffed to dimpled capacity with fiberfill. Once in this suit, backing out was not an option. The chubby mittened hands-- sewn straight to the arms-- and the zipper in the back absolutely ensured that those encased in the Kid, stayed in the Kid.

After I struggled into this polyfiber astronaut suit, I had to "dress" the doll, too-- layering on a smock, bloomers, anklet socks and Mary-Janes. Then top it off with a fully-sculpted doll head and wig.

Needless to say, all liquids ceased several hours before the big event. It was as much for the safety of the costume as for my comfort. Mom was taking no chances.

From inside the suit, I felt like a python's dinner being slowly digested. Sights and sounds were distant and muffled. Breathing was shallow. I wondered vaguely how 'd agreed to this, and how I'd ever thought it was such a good idea. But, then, I wondered that every year.

Mom said it was the price one paid for Art.

Other costumes over the years included Miss Piggy, featuring a homemade mask cleverly MacGyvered from window caulking. The fumes alone in that baby were stronger than any sugar rush...

It also was the unfortunate beginning of all my relatives giving me random pig tchotchkes. It solved their gifting concerns for the next five years.

The year of Mom's Garfield extravaganza allowed me to wield sarcasm and a tail. But logistically, that suit had similar problems to the Cabbage Patch Kid-- complete sensory isolation...

Plus fur.

Then there was Olive Oyl, a costume which left me a refreshing amount of mobility, but the rubber nose which Mom said topped off the look to perfection ("It's just not Olive Oyl without the nose," she insisted, handing the schnoz back to me) was held there with duct tape, and kept toppling off at inconvenient moments.

Like during breathing or walking.

Plus, when you're a skinny, awkward girl to begin with, being Olive Oyl could be said to be embracing your Inner You....

Or, it could be the start of a nickname which your classmates will enjoy for the next two years.

Now you might be wondering where these costume ideas came from. Well, these costumes were chosen through an elaborate two-tiered brainstorming process the summer before each Halloween.

In Phase One, I would toss out ideas of characters I wanted to be-- like Wonder Woman, Barbie, Batgirl, or Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz...

And in Phase Two, my mother would go through my list and veto them all using her Executive Designer Overrule Power, because I'd be too cold... Or I was too flat-chested... Or because it didn't offer enough creative challenge... Or, most of all, because it didn't have the "wow-factor" contest judges were looking for...

Mom had a sixth sense about these things. She may have missed out on a lucrative career in Hollywood movie casting.

And it was true, the contest competition would be stiff. In the cool autumn air, as leaves twirled in the New Jersey post-dusk mist, we'd stand among the ranks of our fellow masqueraders in Mom's latest fancy-dress inspiration...

And we'd find ourselves chatting with a large bunch of grapes... or a fish in a bowl... or a crystal ball on a table... or, oh, a wedge of cheese. Each one had potential to seize the gold, depending on the mood of the judges.

And we'd wait nervously for our turn on the costume catwalk.

The year of the "Nightmare on Sesame Street," as it's come to be known in my circles, Mom's creative spark spawned two lovable Muppets. My mother made her costumed character debut as Bert this Halloween, and I-- the shorter-- was Ernie.

The night of this costume contest marked the first time my mother shared directly in the anticipation... and the visual impairment. ("Wow, it's really hard to breathe in these things, isn't it?... And where'd your father go? Oh... he's right here. My mask got twisted.")

It seemed a strange sort of Universal Balance had finally been struck. I didn't know what the word for it was at the time, but if I did, I'd have told you, it was "closure."

Or possibly "poetic justice."

Either one was acceptable.

Yes, indeed, that night we took home the first place trophy with joy in our hearts, the Sesame Street theme song on our lips, and a bag full of candy in my hands.

So with neighborhood trick-or-treating still on the orange harvest horizon, life seemed simply filled with mind-boggling, nerve-tingling, tooth-rotting possibilities....

Little did I know, that in less than 24 hours, my friends and I would find ourselves learning a childhood lesson we would never, ever forget.

Ah, but that is a story for tomorrow, my friends...

I hope you'll pop by for Part Two of Nightmare on Sesame Street.
(Update 9/24-- Click here for Part Two.)

-------------------------------------------------------------
If you enjoy these posts, vote for Of Cabbages and Kings at Humor-blogs.
Or check out the folks at Humorbloggers.

21 comments:

wordtapestry said...

Oh, this brings back memories. Having to be Miss America one year, because she had black hair too. Going disguised as a baseball player because we had the costume from my boy cousins. No, I never won an award. But that was fine.

I wasn't stuck in the Charlie Brown papier mache' costume a friend got stuck in. I asked her, "Hey, are you a golf ball or something?" Yeah, first graders can be cruel.

Jenn Thorson said...

WordTapestry- Heh, yes, that sort of thing does sound familiar! And poor, poor Charlie Brown-- good grief. :)

ender said...

OMG, a cliffhanger???? dammit, i wanna know now! (you KNOW i have ZERO patience)

Jenn Thorson said...

Ender- Heh-- sorry, my red monkey friend. It's a two-parter. It simply must be. But I appreciate you stopping by and reading-- and also the note. :)

Da Old Man said...

You took home the gold!!!

That is so awesome.

I can hardly wait for tomorrow.

Jenn Thorson said...

Heya, Crotchety- hope you're feeling better! :)

Lidian said...

Holy moly Jenn, some of those costumes sound like you could go to the moon in them! One small step for Jenn, one great step for lots of delicious candy!

My mom made my costumes too but they were pretty basic.

I am lazier than my mom. I used to cut a velvet skirt (from Goodwill of course) along the side seam, up to the waistband and call it a witches cape.

Now my girls are too old to dress up. Big sighs of relief all around.

Jenn Thorson said...

Lidian- The moon, perhaps-- just not the restroom! HAHAHA:) Pretty clever, your witch's cape idea.

Greg said...

Boy, I hope you did at least RAKE IN the candy loot with those costumes, which sound pretty terrific, if overly elaborate and smothery...Halloween candy back in those days was at least full sized bars and stuff, still...

Can't wait for part deux...

Jenn Thorson said...

Greg- Ah, it will all be shared in good time, my friend... All in good time. :)

Drowsey Monkey said...

Ohhh, a 2-parter...sneaky ;)

"Sights and sounds were distant and muffled." omg, I remember those costumes! My mom worked as a seamstress for a few years, she was magical behind that sewing machine! I can't thread a needle. Button falls off = time for a new blouse.

Jay said...

Yeah, that brings back memories .. but not of trick or treating. We just didn't do that over here in the UK. Still don't, not really, though the kids are doing their darndest to make it catch on.

No, I remember being the 'Mom' with the fancy dress contests that were all the rage in the summer when my firstborn was a kid. The one I remember best was the robot. I made costume out of cardboard boxes and tubes and fabric and paint and glue. It took aaaagges. And he was hung on my shoulder big-eyed with anticipation, eager to try it on... and then it was done, and I put it on him and he tried to walk in the big carboard box shoes and see out of the big cardboard box head, and a muffled wail erupted.

Ah .. happy days! ROFL!

He won, by the way, but it was the last fancy dress contest we did.

Jenn Thorson said...

Drowsey- Like you, I am no whiz with fabric. Perhaps sewing skillz skip a generation sometimes-- what do you think? :)

Jay- Hey, kudos to you for the win-- it sounds like a marvelously elaborate costume!

The whole thing for me was a sort of love-hate event. I loved the candy, I appreciated Mom's effort. But think I'd have been a whole lot happier if I'd had a bit more say in what I ended up being for Halloween. I remember begging on year, "PLEASE, can't I just be someone pretty one year?" :)

chyna said...

Awww your mom is a Halloween costumer after my own heart! Last year my dd was a mermaid (not my idea) and I used real velvet, silver trim sewed on pearls and some pretty butterfly decals. I used up quite a bit of my nice fabrics I had stockpiled for other things on that costume. Her response, she cant walk very well in it. Ughghghgh!!!!! This year she is getting a store bought costume. Let her learn how unimaginitive that is. LOL

Me I was a vampire for years. Vampire bride, homecoming vampire, biker vampire. You name it and I was it as a vampire. And adulthood hasn't stopped that. ;)

Jenn Thorson said...

Chyna- AH! I would have LOVED the mermaid. In fact, I think I recall suggesting that one year. (It got kiboshed-- Mom was tough.) :)

Love your running vampire theme there. You'll have to let us know what variation you're planning then this year. :)

Jay said...

Oooh, vampires, huh? I'm reading J R Ward at the moment, and I cannot put it down!! I am going to be sooo mad when I've finished them all!

Jenn - I used to get DS to help choose the costume out of what I felt I could do, but of course the reality of having a papier mache space helmet weighing a ton rammed on your head with a visor you can't see through properly is less romantic than you think!

That was another one I did. Spaceman. *Sigh*

Jenn Thorson said...

Jay- Heh... I now can see how "Major Tom" might have gotten lost in space. :) Couldn't see out of the visor.

Melanie said...

Wow, you had an awesome mom. My mom was a sewing maniac, still is for that matter. She made ALL our clothes, but did we ever get one lousy Halloween costume? Heck no. When it came to Halloween we had to make do with whatever we could find in the closet and MAYBE if we were lucky, a dime-store mask.

Jenn Thorson said...

Melanie- She was, indeed, a whiz! She made my prom dress, too.

Still, I bet you were able to work some creative stuff from the closet!

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

What?!?!?! No pictures?

Jenn Thorson said...

Nanny Goats- Heh... I was going for light humor and not so much horror. (MY horror.) :)