Finding treasures in Mom’s Halloween box
ESCANABA – Hidden away in the darkness, under the eaves of that old house is a large box of magic!
It takes the October moonlight to ignite its powers.
When the last of the yellow maple leaves are launched into the cold night air, down comes the magical box.
Peer in under the faded corrugated cardboard with me, if you dare. The single bare light bulb in the attic will illuminate shapes and colors. Soft fabric like a baby’s bonnet, scratchy wool like an old uniform, foil and plastic, and hair-like pieces are in there, too.
Could that be an alien’s purple Styrofoam feelers and a devil’s wiry tail or a witch’s pointed hat?
Help me pull the heavy box over into the light. As we open the container, time stands still. The sweet odor of youth, laughter, candy, buttered popcorn and warm cider fill the attic.
Brother Mike’s angel wings and sparkly garland halo are there. For a moment it is 1967 again and maybe I’m imagining, it but a Beetles song is play on the radio. (But wait, there’s no radio in this closet)
Mike is “Michael the Arch Angel” and he is in the second grade. My hand reaches deep into the box and I extract a wooden sword. Dad made it for Mike to complete his costume. When I lift out the toy sword, the sound of dozens of laughing kids with cupcake and bubble gum breath echoes in my ears.
Next I pull out a big old-fashioned baby bonnet. With haste, I locate the ruffled bloomers that go with it. This brother, Mark, is in eight grade dressed in a baby costume. A bottle and a rattle are his accessories. Giggling, a mass of sweaty preteens in a school hallway, pop, and caramel apples and one “big” baby in the costume contest are the sounds and sights playing in my brain.
This magical box that I am describing is better known as my Mom’s Halloween box. For as long as I can remember, my Mom saved costumes, hats, and props in a big box in the upstairs storage space of the house. We rarely had store-bought costumes. Rummage sale masks, or secondhand clothes or something that Dad could make on his sewing machine, (yes, Dad did all of the sewing in our house) were the “dress-up clothes” for our trick-or-treating.
From dressing up little tots, to school Halloween carnivals, to high school dances and going out on the town, the costumes changed as my siblings and I grew up. Mom’s Halloween box seemed to have something for everyone no matter what age or what kind of party.
My younger cousins would often borrow something from the box. My aunts would trade and swap ghost get ups, policeman’s hat, clown suit and granny wigs.
Every year it was almost as much fun just taking down the box, rummaging through it and reminiscing, as it was to dress up again.
My mom taught us how to save and recycle even before it was an “in” cool thing to do. The creativity and the tradition is what the Halloween box is all about. She loved to dress up for Halloween. For years she was the carnival chairperson for Holy Name School. The carnival coach, Miss Piggy, Bozo the Clown and Sister Luella were a few of her aliases.
Mom is gone now, but I’ll bet you any money the Halloween box is still there. My sister and I would not be without our witch hats or halos.
Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong resident of north Escanaba. Her folksy columns are published weekly in Lifestyles.