When I was growing up, my family always took Halloween very seriously. Starting in early September, dinner-time conversations would revolve around plotting out the logistics of costumes for my sister and myself. There was a period of about ten years where we built complex animal heads out of chicken wire and masking tape just about every year. They chicken wire was used to construct a frame, and then it was covered with masking tape, which created a perfect surface for painting. Part of this desire to make unusual and unique costumes was that when we started dressing up for Halloween, my family lived in LA. We went to school with kids who’s parents worked in the entertainment industry and had access to props and costume departments. The annual Halloween parade on the playground of my elementary school in Eagle Rock was typically half costumes straight off the sound stage and half from the racks of Pic’N’Save.
When my sister was six years old, she was a mermaid. When she first proposed this idea to our mom, she told her that she wanted the fins to be sewed together, and she wanted my mother to go to school with her and pull her around all day on our little red wagon (from an early age, Raina believed she should receive star treatment). My mom quickly nixed that idea and instead created fins that came down like a skirt, so that Raina could still walk. She did cave to one of my sister’s demands for that costume, and sewed padded fabric seashells to a flesh colored teeshirt, to create the illusion of breasts. Yep, she had the biggest knockers of any first grader that year.
As luck (or misfortune) would have it, I managed to go to different elementary schools for third grade, fourth grade and fifth grade. Much to my parents’ creative relief, this enabled me to wear the same costume for three years in a row. My beloved parrot costume consisted of a chicken wire and masking tape head (as described above) complete with a hinged beak and a green suit my mom made. It was covered with blue and green feathers, and had a tail that velcro-ed on and off, or ease when sitting in class. The best part was the rubber kitchen gloves I wore on my feet, to replicate the look of bird feet.