Recent Splats according to Miz Yank

I won’t judge you…unless you’re wearing a costume

I live in a cohesive community that reminds me in all the best ways of Orange Hunt, the neighborhood where I grew up. As in good ol’ O.H., neighbors here know one another and people take care of each other. But my current neighborhood has something O.H. didn’t: a community-owned park at the end of a street. That’s where I once again judged the annual Halloween costume contest, which took place today.

My neighborhood brought me back by popular demand, if we count as a demand last night’s neighborhood-wide email blast seeking people who are “interested and highly qualified. Or reasonably qualified.” I volunteered before they lowered their standards to “reasonably alive.” But I did it with some reluctance because my 13 year-old niece, Emily, couldn’t come. She had joined me last year in a zebra outfit and under the pretense of taking notes, but really, I wanted her there for backup in case things broke bad.

Though I didn’t have my backup zebra this year, I didn’t have to go it alone after all. As I was walking out the front door, I ran into Sue, my neighbor’s mom. She had come to town to see her granddaughter walk in the parade and nobly answered the call to the reasonably qualified. I was happy to see her. I like Sue a lot, but more importantly, she’s smaller than I am and was wearing a homemade ghost costume whose eye holes tended to rove. I felt certain I could outrun her if the crowd turned on us.

At 10 a.m., the parade got underway, led, as your better parades are, by a Jeep-driving Captain Hook. Behind him walked an inflated T-Rex, princesses, a ballot box with legs, Kraft Macaroni-n-Cheese, superheroes, a donut, George Washington, Greek goddesses, a punk rocker, french fries, a president, a farmer and his barnyard animals, Harry Potter and Hermione, a UPS crew, the entire cast of Toy Story, owls, a cheeseburger, and scores of other costume-clad revelers. The Arlington County police lent their support by dressing up as themselves and clearing traffic from the parade route. The parade culminated in the park, where the other judges and I circulated to get a closer look at the costumes that piqued our interest. Forty-five minutes later, the judges huddled to determine the winners.

As I’ve said before, wearing an inflatable shows extraordinary costume commitment.

As in Olympic figure skating, we scored based on presentation, required elements, and the ability to stay vertical while wearing an absurd outfit. After three minutes of agonizing deliberation–twenty seconds of which was spent rearranging Sue’s eyeholes–we had our winners

Captain Hook took to the dais (French for “unoccupied picnic table”) and silenced the crowd so the head judge could announce our results.

The winners I remember are:

  • Kraft Mac-n-Cheese: Were the creators going for irony with a homemade costume depicting America’s favorite processed powdered cheese side dish? We didn’t know and we didn’t care. Like most people, we love mac and cheese in any form.
  • The cast of Toy Story: they had it all, and it looked like they’d made it all. Or at least most of it. It’s hard to get close enough to inspect for “Made in China” labels without committing a serious personal space violation.
  • A family of monkeys: This looked to me like a faithful rendition of life in a zoo, or family mealtime. Either way, a few hurled bananas would have upped the authenticity.
  • The farm: We overlooked the fact that this farm’s chicken was strapped into a stroller –so much for free range eggs –because the cow and pig were so darned cute.
  • A graveyard bride: dressed all in grey and black, I imagine this is how I look when I haunt my ex-husband’s dreams. Mwahahaha.
  • The UPS crew: On person’s Amazon trash is another person’s UPS truck, loaded up with all kinds img_0161of cargo and a pig in the passenger seat. The driver, a toddler who lives on my street, refused to get into the truck. I don’t blame him; I’d be grumpy about working Saturdays, too.
  • The ballot box: By the time we announced the results, she was nowhere to be found. Either she’d gone off to stuff herself or she’d walked off with the election. We’ll never know.

And though he didn’t win, my personal favorite was this one:

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Yep, that’s an “A” that flashes on and off, making him…A-blinkin’.

I texted this pic to my family, eliciting responses that reflect the national mood right now.

L.J.: “Is he running for President? Because if he is, I’ll write him in!”

Lynne: “Me too! He has my vote!” She didn’t even ask about his email protocol.

Suzi: “At this point I would even vote for the UPS truck or the mac and cheese!!” Perhaps she thinks the mac and cheese would better represent us than the current orange candidate. I cannot disagree.

L.J.: “UPS delivers the goods!”

Like this annual event, that slogan is a real winner. Now if only we could find the ballot box.

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Me and Sue. She calls it a costume, I call it the Judge Protection Program.

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Like my creds?

You can dress ’em up, and sometimes that’s plenty

You know what holiday makes me appreciate and respect my mom even more than Mother’s Day? Halloween, because that was when her Make-It-From-Scratch skills reached their zenith. 

That’s really saying something, too, because my mother could and can figure out how to do just about anything and do it well. A self-taught cook, she made magic in the kitchen (except for that one time when she made shipwreck, but hey, we all screw up sometimes). She not only owned a sewing machine but knew how to use it, sometimes to make clothes but more often to perform non-elective surgery on pants, dresses, shirts and stuffed animals. And she’s resourceful, a trait that really came in handy during the pre-internet 1970’s and ’80s, when I was coming of age. 

Way back when, a month or so before Halloween, Mom would ask what we wanted to be that year. In hindsight, that question alone astonishes me. If I had four kids deeply involved in tennis, baseball, band, swimming, soccer and piano, I’d be in triage mode until October 29 at the earliest and wouldn’t ask a question any more open-ended than, “Which one are you, again?” I picture myself gathering the kids ’round the laptop for a festive Amazon.com session during which I’d ask them which costumes they’d like that are under $25 and can be delivered free by drone. Not Mom, though. She let our Halloween imaginations roam and then did a heroic job of keeping up with them, no matter what it took.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, I bring you a few entries from Mom’s Homemade Costume Hall of Fame (you’ll have to supply your own Barry Manilow soundtrack):

  • Miss Piggy: For some reason, my sister Lynne identified with this Muppets character and her diva ways (perhaps the steadfast refusal to carry a tune awakened a kindred spirit in my sister?), so that’s what she wanted to be for Halloween one year. Rising to the challenge, Mom didn’t try to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear; it was almost the other way around. She fashioned a snout from a Dixie cup, which she covered in pink felt. She made and attached to the Dixie snout a set of rosy, stuffed cheeks, which in turn were affixed to a strap that somehow met at the back of my sister’s head. The above-the-head portion of the ensemble was rounded out with a headband into which was wedged a pair

    The Miss Piggy costume Mom made was waaaay better than this, though her failure to accessorize with wine in a plastic cup is a serious oversight.

    of stuffed pig ears, sewn by Mom. In place of Miss Piggy’s signature lavender gown? Mom’s purple polyester bathrobe.

  • Jailbirds: Whether it was career foreshadowing or something more benign, in the late 1970s, my best friend, Liz, and I insisted on dressing up like a pair of convicts. Our knowledge of incarceration fashion was limited to cartoons, according to which orange was not the new black; horizontal zebra-stripes were au corante. To achieve that look, my mother and Liz’s mom took white undershirts from our respective dads, put down masking tape or something like it in horizontal stripes spaced an inch or two apart, and took a can of black spray paint to the un-taped remainder. They did the same with white corduroy pants and then made us accessories in the form of striped, brimless hats. The pièce de résistance was the ball-and-chain. The moms somehow sewed two black spheres and stuffed them with newspaper for the ball part. And don’t ask me where, but somehow they found chain loops made of bamboo or something similarly lightweight –the light fixture in our family room may have sacrificed something to the cause — that our little kid legs could drag around without fear of injury. (Wait a minute, is that what happened to my glam-string?!?!)
  • An Ewok: The Force was pretty much always with my brother. L.J.’s Star Wars addiction began before kindergarten, so it was just a matter of time before he requested one of the characters from the movie series. How in the world could Mom hope to replicate this furry, fictional forest critter? She took a set of footie pajamas and attempted to dye it brown. If she was aiming for burnt umber, she wound up with toasted marshmallow. Then she made custom headgear. (My brother hastened to clarify the term “headgear” here refers not to the orthodontic torture device I wore for the better part of 200 years but rather to a mascot topper.) According to L.J., Mom bought light brown furry material and covered most of the head with it, and then she added a piece of darker felt to depict the Ewok’s raccoon-like eye mask. Even Steven Spielberg would have been impressed.
  • The World Serious: My brother was into baseball at an early age, by which I mean an age where you, upon hearing a term like “World Series” and having no idea what either “world” or “series” means, may make a wee bit of a mistake when you try to pronounce it. L.J. heard the phrase as the “World Serious” and wanted that to be his costume. My mother took his World Serious request world seriously and re-created the 1986 showdown between the Mets and the Red Sox by somehow sewing together jerseys and hats from both teams. As my brother put it, “whichever side of me you saw, you got a ballplayer for one of the teams.” And trick and a treat, and a costume grand slam.

Thanks to my mom and all the other moms out there who set an impossibly high bar in the Halloween costume department. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some shopping to do on Amazon.

T2 wasn't alone in his costume cluelessness.

Last year’s find, courtesy of Target.