My parents made Halloween special

For the month of October Listing Toward Forty is Listing Toward Halloween, featuring a variety of Halloween posts including many by guest authors. This post is by Erin Gallagher.

Autumn is a crisp time of year when the allergens decrease and the coziness increases. Baltimore in Autumn was a site to see. Truly breathtaking.

I grew up humbly in Baltimore City. There were six of us: four kids and two parents. In 1985, I was 12. My brother Dan was 7, my sister Mia was 5 and my brother Paul was 2.

We didn’t have a lot. As a result, my parents were a covert operative spy team of creativity. Once the fall turned Baltimore’s trees to vibrant shades of gold and copper, my parents accepted their respective Halloween assignments (and no messages self destructed) to ensure that we would have the absolute best Halloween ever.

My father, Tony. Code name: The Ambiance Maker. No pumpkin too large, no leaf pile too great, no snack ungrilled. Our pre-trick-or-treating afternoon started with chores. Or so we thought. My dad would have us rake giant piles of leaves into one pile. Once our task was completed we were expected to rid our yard of these leaves. But, rather frequently, there would be, instead, a leaf battle…starting with my father jumping into the giant pile of leaves, claim that he was a monster, and then would commence throwing bunches of leaves at us. It was crazy fun.

After our annual trip to the local apple orchards and pumpkin farm, we would watch in awe as he masterfully carved a family of six jack-o-lanterns – one for each of us of course. Each fully equipped with candlelight (I swear to this day that they lit up the whole neighborhood) that we could enjoy while drinking the warm cider he would make for us.

That man could use a Webber Grill like no other. My father was a terrible cook (His words, not mine) and had little patience for baking or other chef related activities (my words, not his). However, he could make a comfort snack that would rock your world: Old Bay seasoned pumpkin seeds; s’mores that would make even the most heart hardened nay-sayer chocolate hater weep with joy; peanut butter graham crackers with chocolate; and plain grilled marshmallows charred just right. So. Delicious.

Now, no Halloween season is quite right without a creative costume. Enter, my mother, Roz. Code name: The Outfitter. She was a full time artist…and it showed in our costumes. She never limited us. Whatever we wanted to be…that is what she would make. I, being the ever historical clothing nerd, went as Napoleon The Great’s wife, Josephine Bonaparte. Like most normal 12 year olds do, of course. I had the best historically accurate costume made of sumptuous pink fabrics and glittery crown jewels made of hand painted recycled aluminum soda pop cans. I’ll never forget it. It was the first time I was ever allowed to wear grown up make up.

No one knew who the hell I was…but it didn’t matter a bit to me. I felt like royalty.

But The Outfitter didn’t ever just have human costume requests. My creative siblings always provided The Outfitter with a construction challenge that she would meet…and raise.

That year, my brother Dan was a Shark Attack. Not a Swimmer. Not a Shark. A Shark Attack. Consequently, I have no idea why. My parents were progressive in a lot of ways…but they forbade the viewing of scary movies. (I ended up watching them anyway though the banister on the second landing while holding my breath and freezing still so the old wooden stairs wouldn’t creak and give me away. I can only assume my siblings did the same before my parents caught wise).

Thereto, The Outfitter made a giant gray and white Great White Shark (from nose to tail, gills and all) out of fabric and wire hangers. The mouth framed my brother’s head and the shark body fell over him like an overcoat. She used red dye to stain the teeth. Dan would pose for pictures with an awesome 7 –year-old gorey screaming face. It was truly inspired.

Zoar.Masters of the UniverseShe made my sister a Zoar costume. For those of you not in the know…Zoar was the hawk priestess on He-Man Masters of the Universe – and my sister loved that character. So The Outfitter made a hang glider shaped winged garment (glorified and supe’ed up poncho, really) with a distinctive feather shaped hem in which my sister could “fly”. It was a huge triangular sensation covered in glimmering sequins. My sister loved it so much. She wore that darn thing for months and years thereafter – until it was just a smell.

Brother Paul’s costume that year was a “Who” from “Whoville” Why? Because he was “no more than 2” – so naturally he was a “Who” which was freakin’ adorable in all its flannel plushy Seussitude.

He was a pudgy toddler all buttery colored bunting clad when we went trick or treating. It was the Shark Attack’s job to pull him around in the wagon – which in and of itself was entertaining.

I reflect fondly on that Halloween of 1985. Halloween has always been my favorite holiday since and I’m certain that it has a lot to do with my parents.

Erin Gallagher has been costuming for over eighteen years and has been working in the theater professionally for over eight years.  She is resident costume designer for Moving Dock Theatre Company and Idle Muse Theatre Company.  Her most recent design credits include: The Mystery of Irma Vep (Piccolo Theatre) and Enchanted April (Idle Muse). Erin designs and constructs her own line of handbags, jewelry and wearable mixed media art pieces under the name of Erin Rose Design. All of her collections feature high end gifts and collectibles made from re-purposed vintage materials. Erin Gallagher’s retail shop can be found at the ErinRoseDesign Etsy Shop. Her newest designs and creations walked down the catwalk last weekend for Alwin Anthony Salon’s Steampunk Halloween Fashion Show.  

All Halloween posts from this series can be found here.

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