The current trend in Psychology to study “happiness,” has resulted in consistent findings that making memories brings more enduring happiness than accumulating material possessions. In our family, there are few holidays that evoke more lasting memories than Halloween.
I love Halloween. However, I definitely prefer the kinder, gentler Halloween of smiling Jack-o-lanterns and friendly looking ghosts to the gruesome displays of zombies, open wounds and scenes from the dark side. Mostly, I have enjoyed dressing my kids up in costumes and watching their excitement at being in character for the day.
Before I had so many kids, I used to sew my kids’ Halloween attire, because I thought that’s what good mothers did (I know—and I regularly thank the high heavens that I dodged the Pinterest bullet, which was non-existent in my young mother days).
One year, in a pregnancy-induced nausea fog, I managed to sew my way through my oldest son’s costume: A stuffed chicken eggshell for him to wear over yellow, fuzzy, baby chicken-like pajamas, complete with a top half which he wore like a hat and bottom half which he wore pulled up like shorts.
The expression on my husband’s face when I showed him the costume I had sewn was priceless. His eyes got big and he nearly shrieked, “My SON is going to be a CHICKEN? Could you have thought of anything less masculine????!!!!”
“Why yes,” I replied, “Actually, I can in fact name many things stereotypically less masculine right now, starting with fairy princess. Do you want me to continue the list? Besides, he’s a baby rooster, and it doesn’t get any more masculine than that. He’s also a riddle, as in ‘Which came first?’”
My husband rolled his eyes at me, but how could he argue with a Halloween costume which doubled as a deep philosophical question? As we took my son trick-or-treating, the homemade chicken in an egg costume was a big hit, and my husband admits that it made for a good memory.
While I enjoyed dressing up my kids, we have never been one of those couples who goes all out on our own costumes. We’re both too reserved and too tired for that. The last time we had to dress up for a Halloween party, I wore a bathrobe with my hair in curlers and attached a baby doll to my leg, representing a clinging toddler, with two more baby dolls strapped to my front and back in baby carriers. I bought my high tech husband a pocket protector, nerd glasses, an orange oxford button-up. We appeared as the “reality-based couple.” Easy Peasy.
One year stands out, however, and it’s one of those instances in which my husband’s loss was my comedic gain (which really is a win-win if you think about it). We got invited to a costume party a few days before Halloween. I had only a few hours to pull costumes together in the short time I had a babysitter for our two young children. I rushed to the nearest store to try to find anything that wasn’t too complex or cost-prohibitive. This was back in the days before large brick and mortar Halloween superstores were available in my area, and Halloween didn’t have quite the same hype that is does today, so I had far more limited options.
As I shuffled through the rack of costumes, a clearance item marked down 75% caught my attention. It was an adult-sized costume in an XL. Since my husband is over 6’2” and fairly broad-shouldered, I thought I hit the jackpot. As I examined the white fabric with black splotches, for a split second, I worried that he might not want to dress up as a Holstein cow, but then I envisioned a gingham skirt hanging in my closet that looked just like it belonged to a farm girl, and decided that if I put my long hair in two braids and carried a bucket, we could go as a milk maid and a cow, and he would surely see the wisdom in my decision. Mission accomplished.
Then, he came home from work and saw what I wanted him to wear for the party.
“You can’t be serious,” he whined at me when I presented him with my brilliant idea. “What is it with you and farm animals?” he complained. “What?” I answered innocently, “It’s just a cow—they’re everywhere. It’s not like people haven’t seen a cow before—besides, that’s all the store had left in your size–now hurry and put it on because we are going to be late.” While he reluctantly started undressing, I ran downstairs to give final instructions to the babysitter. When I ran back up to our room, he was standing there looking bovine-ish, and I couldn’t help it. I started to laugh. He was not amused. “There is no way I can go out like this,” he explained, “I look obscene.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, trying to stifle my laughter, averting my gaze from the obvious source of his discontent. He gestured toward the large, disturbingly realistic looking polymer udder protruding from his lower abdominal region and explained, “Just look at this! It looks inappropriate.”
I couldn’t help myself, “Well, you could be an exhibitionistic cow, which is way more interesting than just a cow.” He wasn’t amused, and suddenly narrowed his eyes at me, fixing me with an icy stare. “Wait. Where’s your costume?” he demanded. “I’m wearing it,” I answered quickly, “Now come on, let’s go.” I was hoping he would drop it and just follow, but the reptilian gaze continued, “So…I’m going…looking like…this….and you’re going…looking…normal,” he said slowly, as if English was my second language.
“No way,” I said, “I look like I just walked out of an episode of Little House on the Prairie. Plus how often have you seen my hair in braids? And look—when have I ever left the house with a galvanized accessory for a purse?” I tried to be convincing as I swung my bucket toward him. “Now come on, let’s go, and stop staring at me like that. I keep expecting your tongue to dart out and catch a bug.”
He sighed heavily for the first of many times that evening, but followed along begrudgingly.
On our way to the party, I apologized for not having the foresight to realize what a focal point the udder was going to be, but tried to be optimistic. “I really don’t think anyone will notice. They’ll all be so busy with conversation and everything. You’ll be fine.” I was also wondering how with my Southern California street smart public school background I had missed any torrid implications of dressing us up like a milk maid and a cow. I was hoping that my fellow Utahns wouldn’t notice.
We walked into the party a little bit late, and the guests were sitting around in a circle, chatting warmly. I kid you not when I say that palpable silence descended upon the room as we walked in. In other words, EVERYONE noticed the udder. In fact, the udder was now center stage. As my husband and I greeted everyone and sat down, the man sitting near my husband burst out, “Don’t aim those things at me,” and laughter erupted, bouncing off the walls. I tried to lighten his darkening mood. “Can you MOOve over?” I asked, and then whispered, “You’re a MOOvement–A costume that is also a pun. How cool is that?” He rolled his eyes at me and sighed. Again.
I do believe that as the evening wore on and we engaged in a variety of games and activities, there were moments my husband had enough fun that he forgot for a moment that he was dressed as a female cow. However, as soon as we walked into our bedroom that evening, he made a point of saying, “Take a good look, because this is the last time you are ever going to see me in this costume again. That was humiliating.”
I replied, “But that was such a MOOving experience…you actually look LITERALLY udderly ridiculous,” and laughed. He didn’t, so I went on, “I understand, honey. The next time I get a cow costume, I will get the one for two people and I will even be the back end if you want.” He made his position clear, “No more cow costumes.”
True to his word, he absolutely refused to ever put the costume on again, and I ended up giving it away to a friend. However, the costume was the gift that kept on giving, because now every time we are out together and see anything cow-related, I can say, “What does that remind you of?” and we dissolve into laughter, although I admittedly laugh a little harder.
You cannot just go to the store and buy memories like these, people. It takes special talent to be clueless enough to create something so “a-moo-sing.” Sometimes our best memories are the mishaps we make as we stumble along and bump into each other in our relationships. Fortunately, my husband is a good sport. So, do you think he’ll like the Holstein-print sheets I got him for our bed for Christmas? Animal prints are neutral, after all!