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The Year of the Mermaid

As a child, Halloween was my absolute favorite holiday. I started planning my costumes months in advance, polling my friends to make sure none of them were thinking of showing up at school on the morning of the 31st decked out as the same thing as me.

I was fortunate to have a mother with infinite patience and above average sewing skills, which meant that my costumes could be just about as elaborate as I wanted. And over the years there were many wild and ingenious costumes for me to dawn on Halloween. There was the year that I wanted to be a blue bird and convinced my mother to cut individual feathers out of bright blue rip stop nylon. She sewed them on in layers, shingle style, to create a fluffy, feathered and slightly tent like bird outfit.

Later I had to be Annie, complete with red hair. Fearing that, if left to my own devices, I might accidentally dye my hair red permanently, my parents used traffic cone orange spray paint to turn an old brown wig “red”. I loved it so much that it remained in the costume cupboard for years; forever shedding tiny orange specks of paint onto everything it touched.

But the costume that caused the most drama in our house occurred during “The Year of the Mermaid”. I say the year of the mermaid because my passion for these finned ladies lasted at least that long, interfering with swimming lessons (I refused to kick my feet separately) and haircuts (mermaids did not have short hair!) and finally culminating in the mermaid costume that I HAD TO HAVE for Halloween.

The costume itself wasn’t much of a strain. Made from shimmering fabric it had a shell decorated bodice and a long tail that swept up and attached via a ribbon to my wrist. A small hole in the tail left my feet clear to walk (although I swore I could just hop!)

Little Mermaid costumeThe problem lay in the fact that our northern Idaho winters began early, and by the time Halloween rolled around, we were often already covered with a half a foot of snow. Most of my costumes had some kind of insulation incorporated into them. Extra layers to make the bird fluffy, a snowsuit hidden under the magic rabbit outfit, but mermaids didn’t wear coats. They didn’t even wear shirts with sleeves. Mermaids had swimsuit-like tops and bare arms and so must I. I did not care about snow, nor the fact that the forecast predicted below freezing temperatures during the trick or treating hours. I was immovable. And so was my mother.

In the end she cleverly dyed a white turtleneck and gloves with coffee and tossed them in the dryer so that I could have a skin colored underlayer. I was mortified, but when it came down to the turtleneck or no candy, the turtleneck won.  From that year on, my mother vetoed anything that did not automatically include long sleeves and legs, deciding it was better to redirect my ideas than to try to reason with me on a freezing Halloween night, and I obliged. But I never quite forgave the fact that I had once had to be a mermaid in a turtleneck.

Because who ever heard of a mermaid in a turtleneck?


About Gillian Grimm

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