I weep at the sight of my ancient, industrial black, needle-eating Montgomery Ward sewing machine, handed down from my mother, who could stitch better seams by hand with her eyes closed. It is broken, I think, for good. It can be replaced, sure, but there is no need. I used it only once a year during a brief window of opportunity in the autumn. My two young sons leap with joy at its demise. They are ecstatic. They are getting store-bought Halloween costumes.
How depressing. They are growing up. The little traitors.
Are these really my kids? The boys, ages 6 and 8, are giddy with the thought of mass-produced Darth Maul and Anakin Skywalker--"Yippeee! Halloween costumes from the store! Isn't it great?"--instead of my creations of divine inspiration.
Marketing rules. Little automatons. Saps.
I offered to make my own versions of those same "Star Wars" costumes, stitched by hand. That's way above and beyond. I don't even own a thimble. Try pushing a needle through double-thick felt with a credit card.
But, no, they wouldn't think of it.
"Gee, Mom, I thought the sewing machine was broken."
I could get it fixed.
"Oh, gee, Mom, that's okay, wouldn't it be easier for you if we simply bought costumes? You've got work and that long commute and taking us to soccer practice and fixing dinner. And then there's Dad and the dog. You've got so much on your plate."
My annual obsession with clever handmade Halloween costumes saved me from having to obsess over mundane things, like the stock market and retirement planning. It was fun and I was darn good at it. I remember my first try. I was a burned-out career woman trying to recapture the joy of painting flats for a high school production of "Oklahoma!" I turned my firstborn into a bumblebee. I dressed him in a yellow-and-black-striped onesie, attached wings made of cardboard and felt, and put flashing pumpkin antennae on his little head. Cute.
The next year, I took a jumbo-size diaper box and turned it into Thomas the Tank Engine. I cut out holes for my son's head and his arms and he wore the train over his body and a black-and-white-pinstriped engineer's hat on his head. On a lark, and lured by the promise of free candy, my husband and I took our son to a local mall and entered him in a costume contest. It wasn't a big deal. The kids paraded around in a circle and some grown-ups picked the winners.
The costume won for most original. Wow. That was a heady experience. It unleashed the killer competitor within this fear-of-success, midlife mom. I prowled the competitive Halloween costume circuit with my creations. There was the Godzilla costume, consisting of a papier-mache head and life-size spiked tail made of black felt stuffed with recyclable plastic grocery bags. That was a winner. There was Mothra with its wings of felt-covered cardboard, hand-painted in colorful hues. Or how about Mr. Turtle, complete with a shell constructed from cardboard pieces stapled together to resemble a segmented carapace. Another winner.
Last year, it was Zorro with a horse--a Shetland pony-size cardboard, papier-mache and felt-covered stallion that still resides in an upstairs bedroom (although the legs have been flattened by children trying to ride it).
My boys loved my costumes. Now they say they really, really want something from the store.
It's not the sewing machine I'm crying about.