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The Famous Caterpillar Costume

(I was asked to do a guest post on ShellHawk's Nest one year that told the story of my favourite Halloween memory. This is what I submitted.)

My mother spent most of my childhood teaching herself how to be crafty. She never considered herself to be artistic or gifted, but it didn't stop her from tackling different projects when it came to her kids.

We weren't poor, but we didn't have a lot of money when I was growing up. This meant items that other mothers might purchase for their children - stuffed animals, a doll house, or say, Halloween costumes - were instead often made by hand in my house by my mother.

One year I wanted to be a caterpillar for Halloween. A fuzzy caterpillar. If you stop to think about this, it isn't the easiest costume to make. Sure, today you can hop online and find examples of caterpillar costumes and even get sewing patterns. Back then, if they didn't have it at the local library (and they wouldn't have), you were basically out of luck. Even if my mom could afford to buy me a costume, we were living in the time of plastic masks with white elastic bands, and "clothing" that was essentially long plastic surgical gowns that tied in the back and ripped 3 minutes after you put it on. And there would be no caterpillar amongst the Disney and Star Wars characters on the rack.

My mother was on her own.

I'm sure it was with some trepidation that she presented me with my costume made from a green bed sheet, faux fur strips (possibly old carpet or throw), and gold glitter antennae on bouncy springs.

Forget Van Gogh's Starry Night. To the eyes of a 7 year old, THIS was a masterpiece. I'd never seen anything like it. Ever. And for the record, I've never seen anything like it since.

I should also note that trick or treating in Ontario (Canada) means you have a 70/30 chance you're going to have to wear your winter coat over your costume. And a scarf. And mittens. This is a nightmare for kids. What's the point of dressing up if no one can see your costume?

My mother, the wise and empathetic woman she was, understood this. Note the matching mittens on my hands. And see the bulk across my torso? I wasn't a child weightlifter. THAT was my warm layers...UNDER my costume.

My mother had now achieved wizard status in my mind.

I couldn't wait to go out and show off my costume.

Ding dong. "Trick or treat!"

"Oh, what a cute little martian!"

Martian? MARTIAN? What was wrong with this lady? But I smiled and proudly explained.

"No, I'm a caterpillar." After getting some candy and an apology, I was off.

Ding Dong. "Trick or treat!"

"Look at the scary alien!"

What the...again? Maybe they can't really see me in the shadow of the porch light. That must be it, because CLEARLY I was a caterpillar. And I politely told the man so.

Off to the next house. And the next. And the next.

More candy. More corrections. More apologies.

Eventually it went like this:

Ding Dong. "Trick or treat."

"Oh no! A monster come to take me away!"

*scowl. Silently hold my plastic pumpkin out to take the candy and accept that my neighbours were morons*

Throughout the entire evening of bad guesses, never once did I doubt my mother's artistic skill or blame her for their mistake. I loved that costume.

And despite my numerous encounters with people who OBVIOUSLY lacked vision, that costume is my favourite Halloween memory. Thanks mom.