Memoir Contest Winner: Honorable Mention for Catherine Lanser’s Costume Accessory

by Matilda Butler on May 24, 2012

catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #181 – Women’s Memoirs, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett


Halloween from a Child’s Perspective — Memoir Contest

Catherine Lanser brings us her memory of a childhood Halloween costume from a time when homemade costumes were more the rule than the exception. Thank you, Catherine for this one submitted to our October 2011 Memoir Writing Contest. Her story won an Honorable Mention.

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COSTUME ACCESSORY
By Catherine Lanser

Giving Dad a big hug

Giving Dad a big hug

To an eight-year-old girl the devil doesn’t have much meaning. The prince of darkness is just a combination of the color red, horns and a pitchfork. At Halloween time, especially in the 1970s when I grew up, it wasn’t surprising to see children in this popular costume. 

I chose it for the color, I guess. As a redhead I felt a kinship to the vibrant red shiny capes I had seen other children don for the occasion. But mine was not to be a store bought costume, or even a hand sewn one made by my mom of red felt. My dad made my costume instead and he used items more familiar to the male species. 

The costume was basic — a pair of white long underwear, dyed red, and a red turtleneck I already had. The thought of walking around in such an ensemble now makes me feel exposed, but I was so young I didn’t mind. I also didn’t mind the fact that the white long johns, as we called them, were a deep shade of pink not really red, and many shades lighter than my top. It looked as if I was getting more and more angry the farther up my body you went. 

With nothing to serve as horns, my costume was just about complete until my dad went to his shed. There he found the one item that really makes a devil into Beelzebub – a pitchfork. Again not the red shiny plastic kind you might buy in the store around Halloween, but rather a real one, with a dirty wooden handle and rusty, bent tines. 

The entire family liked Halloween. Here's Mom and Dad dressed for the occasion.

The entire family liked Halloween. Here's Mom and Dad dressed for the occasion.

I took the fork and went to the Halloween party we were having for my Brownie troop meeting. I was happy with my own handmade costume, glad to avoid one of the many hand-me-downs from my eight older siblings. As I walked the three blocks to the elementary school where our meetings were held I dragged the pitchfork behind me, liking the sound it made and sure no other child would have anything like that. 

As I entered the party no one seemed to notice my weapon and before long we were lining up for the costume contest. I took my place next to my friend who was dressed as a peasant. Her long brown hair matched her brown dress, handmade I guessed by her mom. 

I knew her mom made all sorts of things and had once almost eaten a homemade dog biscuit her mom had handed out during a sleepover. I had just woken up and the rest of the girls were crowded around her mother who was handing out what looked like cookies to me. As I lifted it to my mouth I saw one of the other girls ask the dog to sit before giving the cookie to the dog. 

“It’s for the dog,” one of the girls said to me.  

As we stood in the Halloween party line, I leaned forward to see the other kids’ costumes wondering if I might win. The judging seemed to go on forever and my arm began to get sore from holding up the pitchfork. I let it drift a bit to the side and waited. 

“Um, do you think you could take that out of my hair?” my friend asked. 

I looked at her hair, now wrapped around the bent tines of the rusty fork. I tried to pull it out, but the more I tried to disentangle it, the more snarled it became. Though I tried to remove it without gaining any notice from our troop leader, she eventually couldn’t ignore the jerking motion between my pitchfork and the girl’s head.  

The leader came over and in a short time was able to remove the pitchfork from her hair. I reached to take the fork back from her, but she said I couldn’t have it. 

“We can’t have children walking around with pitchforks,” she said. “You can have it before you go home.” 

Halloween after Halloween I found unique and inexpensive ways to dress. Do you like my toga?

Halloween after Halloween I found unique and inexpensive ways to dress. Do you like my toga?

She made good on her promise and gave it back before I left the party. With no prize for best costume, my hands were free to drag it back home, along with my bag of candy. My friend went home with only a bag of candy and no prize, although now I think the pitchfork may have been a better accessory for her peasant costume anyway. 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sara Etgen-Baker May 27, 2012 at

What an engaging story! Thanks for sharing!

Ronda Armstrong May 27, 2012 at

A fun story and brought back so many memories of costumes, parades, and contests. Loved the fact that your Dad helped you with the devil costume, complete with pitchfork! Enjoyed reading it. Thanks!

Kathy Lanser May 30, 2012 at

What a delightful story — it really made me chuckle :)

Aunt Sandy June 4, 2012 at

What a ccccute story. Those Lanser men really knew how to improvise. Thanks for sending the link.

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