There’s No Place Like Home

October 31, 2003

It’s Halloween tonight. I’ve dropped the apostrophe after years of clinging to it. In 2001 I noted that a Google search returned more than two million hits without the mark and only 32,000 with. Inclusion of the apostrophe is defined as the British spelling, omission as the American. The British would know. The festival originated there thousands of years ago with the earthy Celts whose nature-based spirituality made much of the change of seasons. That’s why there are no Italian Halloween customs, a fact which seemed to surprise NBC’s Al Roker last week when he asked a visiting Italian chef about them. (Any pumpkin recipes allegedly part of Italian cuisine are American adaptations for the use of this variety of squash native to Central and North America.)

But I’m getting pedantic here. There were surprisingly few impassioned letters to the editor in the local paper this year about the tragedy of promoting this Satanic ritual. Last year there was a letter that declared that more human and animal sacrifice takes place on this night than all other nights of the year combined! I asked in my own letter printed a few days later just what those numbers were and where the writer got her information, but I never received an answer.

Ron and I chose not to participate in the neighborhood Trick or Treat, held last night. Lynn had been invited to a friend’s house to carve a  pumpkin and hand out treats there. The number of costumed youngsters abroad in Woodridge has dwindled in recent times, ever since the baby boomlet we experienced in the mid-1980s got too old for the sport. I didn’t want any leftover candy around, didn’t even want to bring fresh candy into the house. So we pulled the shades and left our porch dark (the signal that you don’t want to participate). I noticed that only one house in our immediate vicinity appeared to be open to visitors. Lynn reported that her friend’s house got only four Trick or Treaters and thus the two teenagers consumed most of the candy themselves.

But I did participate to a small degree in Halloween this year. In a year of Last Things for me (Lynn’s last field hockey season, last choral concerts, last school musical, last spring awards assembly), I made my Last Halloween Costume.

Back in 2001 I wrote about the costumes I fashioned for Lynn when she was younger. Among them was the one shown below left. Lynn has always loved The Wizard of Oz,  and in 1990 I turned her into Dorothy for a day, complete with red shoes slathered with glitter and a stuffed Scottie dog in a basket.

Lynn hasn’t worn a costume in many years. But she’s a senior this year, and her school allows seniors to dress up for Halloween. She announced last month she wanted to be Dorothy again. This did not surprise me, since she has been expressing a longing to return to the simpler days of her childhood. She looked at the ready-made Dorothy outfit available at the party goods stores. It cost $40 and was poorly-fashioned.

I decided to take a look at what I might be able to produce. Back in 1990 I’d used a white blouse we already had and a pattern for a conventional gingham jumper. I saw that now Simplicity offered a package with a Dorothy dress suitable for theatrical use — a one piece garment that zipped up the back. Using quality but inexpensive cotton fabric meant for quilting, I could produce a Dorothy dress for under $20 and about ten or twelve hours of work. And so I announced that I would provide the Dorothy dress, a commitment that advanced one of my goals for 2004, to be doing sewing and handcrafting again, and would also provide a hands and heart period of meditation on all the Last Things that are happening for me this year.

The result appears below right. Producing the dress provided exactly the experience I sought. I had to rearrange my study (a 12-foot-by- 12-foot bedroom) temporarily to accommodate the folding cutting table, cut the pieces all in one session because otherwise you can’t use the room for anything else, and then get out my sewing machine and relearn how to use it. (I had completely forgotten how to insert a zipper and for a while before I finally located the instruction manual I couldn’t even identify the zipper foot!) I faltered during the zipper application process, willing to call it a $20 lesson in learning to sew again and just buying the ready-made, but then I asked her to try the thing on just to see if it was even close to the right size and drape. She looked so adorable that I had to push through to the end.

Lynn doesn’t know this, but it has been my intention for a long time to procure a pair of ruby slippers for use next fall when she moves into her first college residence. Now I can use these, which she decorated herself. I’ll put them in a shoe box and wrap them like a gift and leave it with her as we drive away. “Open this as soon as we’re gone,” I’ll tell her. “You’ll know what to do with them.” Inside will be a note — Remember, there’s no place like home. I hope she’ll always believe that.

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