First Halloween

Halloween Cactus

"I want to be myself," Beren told us when Jared and I asked about Halloween costumes in early October. "OK, that makes sense," I agreed.

A week later, Jared and Beren were joking around, and Beren, who finds rhymes and wordplay very amusing, laughed heartily when Jared said, "You can't kiss a cactus!"

In the nursery, we have a Dutch bulb crate filled with cacti pads for future divisions. The cactus intrigued Beren for the past two growing seasons. He's been respectful of the cactus' prickles after Jared explained to him about cactus spines and their nearly invisible glochids. He'd often sit by the cactus crate and linger peacefully. He added stones and pebbles to the soil around the pads after learning they like well-drained soil.

And just like a cactus, Beren does not like kisses. He rubs them off. I once asked if he didn't like wet kisses. No, he didn't like wet kisses. As a child, I found damp, chilly kisses unappealing, too.

Once or twice, at bedtime when he's very tired, I've given away kisses with no complaint, just guidance. "Very dry, Momma. Make it very dry." I wipe my mouth. "Dry?" "No, more dry," he says wiping his face. I wipe and try again, "OK?" "That's dry. That's OK." More typically, Beren shrieks and exclaims, "No kisses!"

One evening after the "You can kiss a cactus" game, we asked if Beren would like to be a cactus for Halloween.

Yes. Yes, he did want to be a cactus.

I considered the options. Though my mother is a great seamstress, I'm mediocre and impatient at the sewing machine, and my son is very discerning about color.

I found a set of plain green thermal long johns online. Jared, Beren, and I sat around the computer. "What do you think of these? Cactus-colored?" Beren said nothing, but watched the computer screen intently. I moved the cursor around the screen, enlarging the view of long johns. The cursor created a one by one inch semi-transparent blue square over the long johns.

"Cactus-colored?" I repeated. Silence. I pointed at the bright green clothing. "Is this cactus-colored?" Beren pointed to the color created by the green long johns and the blue magnification square. "That is cactus-colored."

He was right. Prickly pear cactus has a bluish tone. Jared explained that the long johns were truly bright green. No go.

After Beren went to bed, Jared and sat at the kitchen table. "You know, I don't want to be a downer, but if you're going to put all this work in, Beren will have to agree to the costume. It would be disappointing for you to make something and him refuse to wear it." "That's for sure, on all counts," I agreed.

A few days later, Beren and I went to a local craft store. In the fiber arts section, we perused the t-shirts and found lime green, but no cactus green. We turned to the dyes and chose two bottles of liquid Rit dye that we agreed were cactus-colored. We found red pom-poms that were acceptable for fruits. Beren chose medium-sized though I liked the larger ones. For spines, we compared felt and foam. "We can cut spine shapes from these," I told him. Beren opted for the grey foam.

We continued to browse the aisles and stopped at the pipe cleaners. The display was vibrant and candy-like. They're always handy, I thought. "I want ALL them," Beren said. To myself, I agreed. Aloud, I said, "Would you like this package or this package?" as I held up two packages of multi-colored pipe cleaners. "THAT ONE!" "OK, GREAT! Let's look at more STUFF!" I said and hustled us to the next aisle.

We found rolls of shiny mesh fabrics at the far end of the store. The glitz caught my eye, and internally I thought, "I want ALL of them!" From three colors, I narrowed down to one roll, purple, of course. The rolls were about $10 each. Across the aisle was a nice display of puffy bows made from lengths of the mesh and tied off with pipe cleaners. They cost $7.99 each. I wavered. I already had the pipe cleaners in my basket. I had the craft skill, maybe. All I needed was the sparkly mesh. It looked simple enough, and maybe I could make a Halloween costume for myself, or maybe bows for holiday gifts.

Ten days have passed. I've made one awkward bow and no costume for myself. However, Beren and I tie dyed his shirt using the green dye that was the most cactus-y. We cut a stack of triangles from the foam. I sewed two rows of red pom-poms down the front of the shirt at Beren's direction. I sewed one final pom-pom on the back of the t-shirt. Again at my young clothing designer's request.

I sewed one foam triangle on. It flopped downward. Not quite right, we agreed. After Beren's bedtime, I took my sewing machine out and sewed the foam triangles all over the shirt. They stood straight out like spines. It was after 10:00 PM and I was tired, but I successfully made my my child's first Halloween costume (as a couple other Halloweens were spent sick). I held it up. "Nice!" Jared said.

When I unveiled the spiny shirt the following day, it was well-recieved and then difficult to remove at bedtime. "I having so fun in this shirt!" he told me. "We'll wear it again tomorrow for the Halloween party at the indoor gym," I said. Satisfied, Beren got into his pajamas.

While we dressed for the Halloween party the following morning, I asked what shirt might go under a cactus shirt and what socks a cactus might wear. Compliance. I got dressed up in a shin-length brocade vest, a puffy white shirt, and wrapped a colorful scarf around my head. "What are you, Momma?" "I'm a pirate, like Uncle Willy's pie rats," I said. Beren, an admirer of Richard Scarry stories, including "Uncle Willy and the Pirates" smiled approvingly. "Are all people going to be dressed up in favorite clothes?" Beren asked. "Well, all the kids will be, but adults sometimes don't. Some probably will. I like to."

At the party, hosted by a local community center, I was one of two adults in costume. The party's host was dressed like a gnome. One 4 year old dressed as a princess told me she liked my costume. Someone's grandmother enthusiastically praised Beren's costume, in the way that grandmothers do. "I like that costume! What are you? A dinsosaur? I like that costume!""He's a cactus!" I answered as Beren scampered away. "Oh, I like that cactus costume!"

This is our child's "first" Halloween as a full participant in the festivities. Halloween night's forecasted to have cold weather…wish me luck when I say, "Which jacket would keep a cactus cozy? This one or that one? Cactus do like to be warm."