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With all the drama we've been going through of late, and with All Hallows Eve almost upon us, I thought it would be a nice break to reminisce about Halloween in West Hollywood, California, in the year 1973.  This is one of my favorite memories of my son's childhood.

My son was 4 years old when I decided I was going to make his Halloween costume from scratch.  I mean, what could be so hard about putting together a costume for a 4 year old?   Didn't every 4 year old boy want to be a cowboy, or a super hero, or a funny monster, or something equally simple to produce?

So, I told him what I was planning one evening during dinner, and asked him what he wanted to be that year for Halloween.  In retrospect, big mistake.  Without the slightest hesitation, he said sweetly, "Puff the Magic Dragon".

I said "What?"

I recognized the panic in my voice as I frantically tried to remember if I had ever seen a picture of Puff the Magic Dragon.  A drawing maybe?  I knew he loved the song but wasn't there also a book?  Had I ever read the book?  Did my son have the book?  Was the book still in print?

What the (mild expletive deleted) does Puff the Magic Dragon look like?

During further discussion, I determined that my son had not read the book nor seen any drawings but only knew the story of Puff through the song which meant I could decide for myself what the little monster looked like!  Hot Damn!, as we liked to say in the 70's.

Curious?  Then continue reading below the pumpkin colored squiggle.

Later, unable to fall asleep, my mind was reeling with random thoughts:  Okay, I thought, green.  I think dragons are green.  And, they have long tails with those spiky things going down them, and long toes with talons.  Not nails, but talons.  And, a long nose with big, flaring nostrils like an alligator.  Oh, an alligator!  I'll bet they're from the same family as dragons. Wow, I never thought of that before, I...  Of course, you didn't!  How many conversations have you had with yourself about dragons, you ninny!  Now, focus!

Eventually, mercifully, I fell asleep.

The next day when I told my best friend - who lived in the other half of the rented duplex with her 6 year old daughter - what I had wrought, she laughed loudly and, frankly, in my opinion, a little too long, before finally sputtering, "Well, you did do your best to instill in him a great imagination so you have only yourself to blame!"  Like that helped.

She did redeem herself somewhat by offering some old apple green, cotton curtains she no longer wanted which could be used for the body of the costume.  Apple green was maybe a little too cheerful for a fierce, fire breathing dragon but a magic dragon called "Puff"?  No.  I didn't think so.

Now, Halloween was a mere two weeks away so I was just this side of full blown panic mode because I had no idea what I was doing.  Nor will I bore you with the details of how I put this masterpiece together because, frankly, I don't remember many of the details because I was a single mother with a full time job, a too full plate, not enough time in the day to do what had to be done, much less creating a Halloween costume from scratch, PLUS it took place almost 40 years ago which, like it not, gives me a legitimate excuse not to remember every little detail, thank you very much!

I do remember using a pair of my son's pajamas as a pattern for the body of the dragon but everything else had to be done on the fly, so to speak.  I remember using a wire clothes hanger to form the long nose, and hundreds of cotton balls as padding for the nose and the "spiky things" running down the back and the tail.  I used black felt for the eyelashes, and white felt for the front teeth and the talons.  The hands and feet were held in place by strips of elastic that went around the palms of his hands and the soles of his shoes.  And, the piece de resistance was an appliqued pink butterfly "perched" on the part of the tail that dragged on the ground behind him.  The only part of my son showing through was his beautiful blue eyes; everything else was covered in apple green dragon "flesh".  All together, I figure I put in about 20 hours on this magical masterpiece.

And, yes, it was magical.  For me.  For my son, the 4 year old comedian, not so much.  As we pulled up to his school on costume day with him dressed in his Puff the Magic Dragon costume and my best friend's daughter dressed in her home made bat costume (which consisted of a piece of black, gauzy material with scalloped cut outs as wings attached to her wrists and which, frankly, took about 20 minutes to make!), my son asked in a muffled voice, "Mom, how many teeth do I have?"

Realizing he was referring to his costume , I replied, "Two.  Why?"

"Oh, no", came the muffled reply.  "I think I'm a Bugs Bunny!"

I can still hear my ex best friend laughing.  

Originally posted to Ellen Columbo on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 01:35 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Blessings to you for your effort! (10+ / 0-)

    We certainly weren't rich growing up, and I distinctly remember my repeated Halloween panic that THIS year may be the year my mother makes us use her 'Go as a bag of...' costume.
    Step 1) Wear a trashbag.
    Step 2) dangle ___ out of the top of said trashbag.
    Step 3) Declare youself a bag of ___. Licorice (red yarn) and trash (you guessed it) were her favorite suggestions. Brainstorming ideas led to hours of torture for my sibling and I and (not coincidentally) delight for her and her friends.

    When I was a bit older and still broke, we finally took her advice - and darned if my bestie didn't make an awesome bag of jelly beans! (clear bag + balloons)
    Ahhhh memories! Thanks for a fun story!

    I assure you, I would've DELIGHTED in a homemade dragon costume!

    "You do not have to be good...You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves." -Mary Oliver

    by hwy70scientist on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 01:58:26 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for the great read (10+ / 0-)

    Love your writing style and thanks for sharing a great memory.  I laughed so much and it felt so good.  Reading your post was like I was in the car with you at the school.

    Hope to have the opportunity to read more of your memories.

    Off to read it again!

  •  The only thing (4+ / 0-)

    this story is missing is the picture !

    But maybe our imagination is in keeping with the story.

    Thanks, I enjoyed reading it.

    •  Unfortunately, no pictures available (4+ / 0-)

      or I would have posted one.  The actual costume though had been in the possession of my ex until his death in 2007.  As our son was sorting through his things prior to returning home, I asked if he would bring me the costume if he could find  it.  He found the body but not the head.  Upon handing me the costume body, he pointed out a big, red stain on it and, grinning, said with his wonderfully sardonic sense of humor, "Chardonnay, I presume."  As you might have guessed, drinking was the main reason my relationship with his father was a failure.

      Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you. H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

      by Ellen Columbo on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 03:14:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  For my first kid, I let him trick or treat because (7+ / 0-)

    I felt guilty that my parents had taken me, so even though I hated the thought of all that candy and a holiday for candy companies, I managed to make a "cape" for him. I have no sewing ability, but It was sort of okay, and he made the logo for the cape by drawing on a sheet, and I attached it. Turned out that cape was used more than one year because it was easy to change the logo. I think I made some kind of wrist bands to match.

    The later kids weren't as lucky, as I didn't take them trick or treating, having decided that guilt was a poor reason to allow so much candy. We carved a pumpkin, gave out raisons, nuts or cards, and I took them to Sees candy (which was around the corner from our house at the time) and let them choose a couple candies. When they got older, they figured out costumes for themselves and did whatever they wanted.

    We managed to survive ;)

  •  As she was tucking in her two boys for the night, (6+ / 0-)

    my friend's youngest said, sleepily, "Mom, tomorrow I have to wear a bunny costume for the school pageant."

    She actually stayed up all night and produced one. Poor kid would have been out of luck with me.

    "...it's difficult to imagine what else Republicans can do to drive women away in 2012, unless they decide to bring back witch-hanging. And I wouldn't put it past them." James Wolcott

    by Mayfly on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 03:21:22 PM PDT

    •  Boy, did that make me laugh! (5+ / 0-)

      My son was invited to a Halloween party at one of the "in" kids house during his 1st year in High School.  He was in a panic when he discovered a few hours before the party that he was supposed to be in costume.  He was resigned to not going when I convinced him we could come up with something.  I took an old white sheet, cut eye holes in it, fashioned a black bow tie out of some black material, put a black top hat (sorta) on his head, a plastic champagne glass in his hand, and sent him to the party as a drunken ghost.  He was the hit of the party.

      You just gotta believe!

      Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you. H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

      by Ellen Columbo on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 03:51:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Clever, Ellen Columbo! Parents need & often (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ellen Columbo, myboo, Diana in NoVa

        produce creative responses to all sorts of child-raising situations. Parenting is the hardest & one of the most creative jobs there is.  It certainly was the hardest job I ever had.

        "...it's difficult to imagine what else Republicans can do to drive women away in 2012, unless they decide to bring back witch-hanging. And I wouldn't put it past them." James Wolcott

        by Mayfly on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 05:13:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, the hardest but the most rewarding! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mayfly, LibChicAZ

          I truly believe that my son is the best thing I've ever contributed to society.  He is, and always has been, the joy of my life.

          Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you. H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

          by Ellen Columbo on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 05:21:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  What a nice memory for you and son (5+ / 0-)

    When my son was young we gave out baseball cards, crayons (regular size and toddler size) and pencils. One spring I met some folks from the neighborhood for the first time and when I told them which house was mine, they said "oh, you're the teacher who gives out crayons and baseball cards for Halloween." I smiled and said, "just a mom, not a teacher." Fond memories...

    People with hatred in their hearts never live up to their full potential. It's very sad.

    by Nelsons on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 03:52:22 PM PDT

  •  My son would be anything for Halloween as long (5+ / 0-)

    as it involved carrying a sword. My favorites were sword carrying wizard and pirate.  Once he was a sword carrying Mexican peasant  and once a sword carrying faun.  Good times.

    Please donate to Okiciyap food pantry. . If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.

    by weck on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 04:10:51 PM PDT

  •  LOL! What moms will do! (7+ / 0-)

    My son wanted to be a stegosaurus when he was about 8.  Eeesh!  I hadn't done much sewing since Home Ec when I was in 9th grade.  But Simplicity had a pattern and I spent $40! on green felt - half a week of grocery money... ugh.  It actually came out pretty good - 45 hours of sewing, stitching, basting, stuffing... also made 3 raisin costumes that year for my mother in law and her 2 young daughters (they were almost the same age as my son - my ex's half sisters).  They went as the California raisins, with their high top sneakers, some plastic musical instruments and joke shop giant sunglasses.  

    At the last minute, he came home from school and said the Halloween event that night was supposed to include parents in costume - I went to the fabric store, found some cheap cotton leopard print, made a toga for his dad and folded the other piece in half, cut a hole for my head in it, wore it like a poncho and tied it with twine for a "belt" - 10 minutes tops to make both outfits.  We had a big dog bone for a "club" and we put our "dinosaur" on a leash and went as the Flintstones.  

    I still have the stegosaurus - it's in my cedar chest with my mother's wedding gown (being wool felt, I didn't want it to get moth holes - maybe someday a grandchild can wear it - after all that work, I hope somebody else gets some use out of it!).  

    That same year, my 10 year old sister in law's best friend came to the school party as a Q-tip.  She wore blue leotards, glued cotton to a pair of old sneakers and wrapped cotton batting around her head.  It was easy and hilarious.  Her mom told us later that she had forgotten all about the party until that afternoon and it was all they could come up with from stuff around the house.  

    I always swore next time my kid wanted a weird costume, we were going to go with the Q-tip, instead of the dinosaur - much easier on the nerves and the pocketbook!  

    Thanks for the great story - and I love the comments about making things from plastic bags - will have to try the bag of jelly beans!  My mom used to dress up as a bag of trash and go trick or treating for toilet paper.  Seriously - she would tell people who answered the door that she didn't want candy, she wanted a roll of toilet paper.  They always indulged her and she usually ended up with a stash of TP that got us through Valentine's Day :)  

    "Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential." - Barack Obama

    by Ricochet67 on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 04:25:38 PM PDT

    •  The late, great Phyllis Diller... (4+ / 0-)

      ...had a joke in one of her early routines about going to a Halloween costume party naked wearing only white boots and a white hat.  When asked what she was supposed to be, she said, "a Q-Tip".   Always got a huge laugh!

      Your 10 year old sister-in-law's friend obviously did the age appropriate version of a Q-Tip.  Hilarious!

      Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you. H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

      by Ellen Columbo on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 04:58:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Do they even make blue Q-tips anymore? (0+ / 0-)

        When I was a kid, they were all white, and the stick was white cardboard.  When my son was a kid, they were a blue plastic stick.  Now they are back to white cardboard again - at least in the giant size packs.  Maybe they stopped doing the plastic blue ones?  Guess you'd have to wear white leotards or a long-sleeved white t-shirt and white pants now?  

        "Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential." - Barack Obama

        by Ricochet67 on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 06:33:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  At the same age (4+ / 0-)

    My son wanted to be "a train". Not a train conductor,unfortunately, but a train. My mother came thru with a great costume that involved fabric thrown over a cardboard box. That was at the same time that the only thing he would wear on his feet were Mickey Mouse slippers, which didn't quite match the theme. But he was still thrilled.  I still have the little conductors hat he wore, and that was 20 plus years ago. Thanks for making me think of it again.

  •  This brings back such wonderful memories (3+ / 0-)

    like when I sewed a big fur tail onto a pair of black sweats and my daughter was a skunk, or the black cape with the red lining that served my son for so long.  Thanks for the smile.

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 05:24:49 PM PDT

  •  I'm from a family of 10... (4+ / 0-)

    never had a store bought costume.

    The year I remember, my resourceful mom came up with-- a dining room table.

    Big cardboard box covered in an old sheet. Plastic place settings glued down. Oldest brother's head in the center with a big cabbage leaf on his head. Other siblings "sat at table" when we rang the doorbell.

    Me, I was the lamp on the side.

    Wrapped in a sheet, lampshade on my head, flashlight in my upturned hand.

    Thanks for the laughs and the memories.

    "The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion." ~ Thomas Paine

    by third Party please on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 05:32:32 PM PDT

  •  My son used to invent his own play (3+ / 0-)

    costumes out of things he found around the house with occasional help from me.

    One year he wanted to be Sonic the Hedgehog for Halloween and I decided that I'd make it myself. Luckily I found a bright blue sweatsuit in his size. I put a tan felt patch on the tummy and somehow managed to make a head piece out of felt with the characteristic sticky-up points. We painted his face with a black nose and white face paint which is safer than a mask. He wore a pair of those stretchy white gloves. Even the sewing impaired, such as myself can find enough things to make a credible costume.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 07:24:35 PM PDT

    •  Wow. Sonic the Hedgehog. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      third Party please

      Kudos to you, Lily O Lady!

      Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you. H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

      by Ellen Columbo on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 08:05:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We saw it in a catalog and decided we could (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Diana in NoVa, LibChicAZ

        do one just as nice if not better. One trick is sweatsuits, which I learned about from some TV program. They're warm on cool nights and really can be adapted so many ways. The other trick is to use felt--absolutely essential for the sewing impaired since the edges don't need to be finished.

        I think Puff the Magic Dragon might have killed me! My kid might have had to go as Adam before the Fall had I tried to attempt it.

        "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

        by Lily O Lady on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 08:36:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Great Story! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LibChicAZ

    Obama/Biden, Obama/Biden 2012

    To be undecided in this elect​ion is to pause​ for a moment and then ask how the chick​en is cooked.” ― David Sedaris

    by Paddy999 on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 06:06:42 AM PDT

  •  Loved this story! Thanks for sharing this memory (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LibChicAZ

    And what a great mom you were, laboring so hard to make a costume for your little son!  Mothers are wonderful.

    And so are precious little boys and girls.  Our little granddaughter tells me she's going to be a princess.  (In my opinion, she already is.)

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 09:03:14 AM PDT

    •  OMG. When I read this comment... (0+ / 0-)
      And so are precious little boys and girls.  Our little granddaughter tells me she's going to be a princess.  (In my opinion, she already is.)
      ...I heard my own Mother's voice!

      Thank you for your lovely comment.

      Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you. H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

      by Ellen Columbo on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 09:18:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Homemade Headless Horseman costume (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LibChicAZ, Ellen Columbo

    That was probably the lowest point in my long history of making embarrassing Halloween costumes. As usual, I was scrambling around at the last minute to find things lying around the house to make a decent costume with when my son, who was six, suggested going as the Headless Horseman. Perfect--I had a black turtleneck on hand as well as a long black play cape and a pair of girls black leggings left over from a ninja costume I'd made the previous year. I dressed him all in black, cut out eye holes on the cape, put it over his head and handed him a plastic pumpkin head to hold, and voila! Not bad at all.

    The only problem was that the cape was made of fake satin and it kept falling off, so I took an old shoelace and tied it around my son's head to secure it in place. It wasn't the most elegant solution, but it worked. And he was happy with it, which is what counts, right? Off we went to trick-or-treat with a group of parents from his school, and as we trailed behind the kids watching them run from house to house, I heard someone whisper, "Who dressed their daughter in a burka costume?"

  •  Reading the comments (0+ / 0-)

    I so loved the post I came back to read it again.  My goodness the comments are wonderful.  I expecially liked the quote "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon  

    Now that I have had a good read I will go read my morning paper.

    Shirley in Oregon

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