Monday, October 31, 2016

A Halloween Memory

This is a story I wrote several years ago and it appeared in Prairie Times. I've edited it slightly for length. It's a way back when story and maybe some of you will relate. You may even have an angel show up at your door tonight!

My Blue Angel Gown 

I wanted to be an angel. Fifth graders get ideas in their heads about what or who they want to be for Halloween and this time it was an angel for me. It was back in the days when most costumes were homemade. Mom was more practical than creative, but something must have struck a cord in her that year. Perhaps she longed to be the kind of Mom who came up with something brilliant for her daughter, as she’d seen other moms do, but I’m only guessing.  

The reality was that there was no money for such things. With five children it was hard enough putting food on the table let alone buying material and whatever else might be required to turn her oldest child into heaven’s envoy. I don’t remember if I bugged her endlessly to make my costume, but I sure had my hopes up. I even offered a few ideas in case she ran out of her own.

And there was another problem. Mom didn’t drive. In those days a lot of women didn’t and most families only had one car anyway. Our dad did almost all the grocery shopping after work on payday. Our neighbor, Mona, drove, but deep down I knew the chance of Mom going anywhere to find anything like an angel costume was highly unlikely. It left me resigned and thinking of what other things I could come up with on my own.  The odd sheet or pillowcase for a ghost or a well worn shirt of dad’s and a burnt cork to make a mustache were family staples.

Then one glorious  autumn day I came home from school and Mom announced she had a surprise for me. Out of a shopping bag she pulled a filmy blue nightgown and told me she was going to make my angel costume out of it. Oh, my. I was dazzled. I held the nightgown up to my face to feel the sheer softness of it. It was a woman’s size, trimmed with broad satin ribbons and my fifth grade sensibilities were charmed.

“Where did you get it?” I asked.

“Mona and I went to the Goodwill this afternoon and I found it. Do you like it?”

Of course I did! I held against me as she tucked and fussed. She was having fun, too! The nightgown had two parts. The layer underneath was shiny nylon and over that was a filmy layer of soft pale blue. It was way too big, but I trusted Mom would do her best to make it fit. And wings? I have a dim memory of entwined coat hangers wrapped in ribbon and sort of hanging off my back.

The day finally came for me to wear my designed-by-mom costume. She swept my curly hair up and stood back to admire her handiwork. I felt like a true Cinderella and couldn’t wait to go to school. We wore our costumes to class back then and paraded in the school yard to show them off. I was sure I’d be the best angel anyone had ever seen and I wasn’t disappointed. The other girls, Raggedy Anns, ghosts, fairy princesses, and clowns, all loved the feel of my gown. Mom had hemmed it and made a cummerbund sort of thing for my waist where the excess material was pulled up and puffed out. I wore my bedroom slippers to complete my look. I swished and twirled in front of my friends. I loved it and felt loved wearing it.

It’s a moment in time that I hold dear because in subsequent years we were back to ghosts, dad’s old shirts and and garbage bag monsters. There were just too many responsibilities at home with all of us kids for Mom to be able to do something so special every year. But it was one  happy little girl who went door to door that night and whenever I see a drawing or picture of a fairy-like angel, I think of Mom and my beautiful blue angel gown.  

Image: Free Digital Photos


  1. A very special story with lots of love, heart and meaning. Those were tough times for all of us. I remember being in a play and having to wear my dad's only pair of dress shoes in it. They hounded and hounded me about remembering the shoes that night because he had a union meeting...of course, I forgot them and he had to wear his work boots with his suit and I caught a lot of h#@k for it. I love your story ....<3

    1. Thanks for reading, Rita. Tough being a kid sometimes. But we're here to tell the tale. LOL

  2. Jennifer Brown BanksOctober 31, 2016 at 8:35 AM

    Lovely story. And what a coincidence. You grew up to be "angel-like." :-)

    1. Jen, I have my "devil" moments, too. LOL Don't we all. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Such a lovely, blue-tinged memory. "Heaven's envoy" tickled me. :D