The costume makes the man

By By Nicholas Pappas

By Nicholas Pappas

When I was young, my mother was Betsy Ross. She carried around a needle and thread like a seamstress vigilante. No rip or tatter was safe.

This always helped at Halloween. If I asked to be a werewolf she could sew hairy legs onto a pair of cutoffs in minutes. She had capes for vampires, puffy shirts for pirates. I even asked to be Thing from “The Addams Family” and a week later I was wearing a giant cotton-filled hand over my head.

When I was 9 years old, my mother got sick in early October and didn’t have the strength to sew costumes for three young boys.

My brothers found the easy way out. One dressed as a ninja with black sweats and a mask. He hid in the dark, jumped into the light and poked me with aluminum foil Chinese stars. My oldest brother dressed as a bum, put a pillow over his belly and walked around with an empty bottle of Jack. It was a fitting costume as he remains a loafing vagrant to this day.

Mine wasn’t as easy. My foil robot ripped as if it were made by Kai. I tried being a pro wrestler, but my elementary school had a strict policy against walking around in tight underwear and boots.

I expected ridicule. I was going to be that kid, the one wearing a paper-plate mask of shame. It brought tears to my eyes. Most things did at the age of 9. I was a whiner. I bawled every time a mushroom got the better hand on Mario.

My father hated whiners. In his usual silent way, he shushed me and said he would take care of everything. He grabbed a pair of gloves and locked himself in the garage. I listened at the door. Was that a power saw? I think I heard welding. There was a good chance I would walk in the Halloween parade as the family car. I expected the worst.

He emerged with a grin and safety goggles. It was his masterpiece.

I was a haunted house.

My father — the carpenter, the roofer — did what he knew how to do. He took a box and made it into a house. There was a walkout porch with a miniature swing. He’d planted a graveyard in the back. The front was a large “Amityville Horror” circular window so I could see. The sides had shutters for my arms to come out like two long ghosts.

I appreciated the roof. It was shingled. I had the most waterproof costume on earth.

I don’t think I’ve seen another kid dress as a haunted house to this day. I’m not sure anyone has. As my house walked from house to house, I was greeted with laughter and extra candy.

There isn’t a better holiday than Halloween. One day a year you get to be something you’re not — a wizard, a werewolf, or a walking bungalow.

In a world ruled by Internet commerce, finding the perfect disguise has become too easy. Googling has made us lazy. College girls can simply type in “slutty costume” and provide their credit card number.

They’re missing the best part. The best part of Halloween is last-minute panic or long-term planning. It’s putting a costume together with spare parts, like MacGyver, or turning off the TV and taking some time to craft one yourself.

My father proved anyone can make a costume. For every 10 store-bought pirates, I always appreciate a good “three-hole punch Jim.” Give it a try. You might find that there is more to you than a lazy consumer.

What a scary thought.

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