Happy Halloween! While most people are doing their autumnal digging out of costumes and ideas for trick-or-treating and upcoming holiday festivities, my little organizer self likes the seasonal ritual of shedding. The trees drop leaves and begin to expose themselves to the cold while I exfoliate the underused or no longer relevant pieces to simplify and refine my wardrobe. It’s an activity I seldom plan, but one that spontaneously happens at least twice a year. How the spontaneity happens is hard to record, but three years ago, I captured one such episode:
I was perplexed by the amount of time it was taking my partner, Sven, when he disappeared into the bedroom to put away the small bundle of clothes he unpacked from our weekend away. Did the exhaustion from the drive and the days of relaxation overtake him? Curiosity got the best of me, so I went to investigate.
When I entered the room, I saw piles of clothing covering half the bed. He was at the far end of the room flipping through a stack of shirts. He was well beyond putting away. He was in the midst of a spontaneous purge.
I tentatively sat on the edge of the bed and watched as the piles of clothes that returned to the armoire were considerably shorter than they were mere moments before. He said he was determined to make them more manageable and to eliminate the need to use force on laundry day when his shirts had to be wedged backed onto their piles. A mound of soon-to-be outbound items gradually increased. He was in it up to his elbows.
A familiar pang of envy washed over me. I wanted to do what he was doing. I retrieved my weekend clothes and carefully put them away, doing my best to avoid interrupting this man’s determined progress. Next thing I knew, I was harvesting pieces from my piles in the armoire. Like a farmer who knows which fruits are ripe and ready, my sense of what had to go was keen. My motions were swift, my intention was focused. One-by-one, pieces of clothing were tossed in a gentle arch toward the vicinity of his outbound piles. Once I started, I was unstoppable. The closet was next!
By the time we were finished all that survived the great purge of 2008 was tidily back in place. In addition the recovery of several items that had been long buried and “lost” in the armoire, I found myself feeling that I had just acquired a whole lot more wardrobe as a result of letting go. And every time before, during, and since that purge, one particular three-piece ensemble has stayed quietly tucked away at the far end of the closet: my Halloween costume from 1971.
There were few things I wanted to keep when my parents decided to move and sell the house I grew up in, and the costume was one of them. The fact that this awesome homemade artifact from my childhood was still around meant something to me. While I have vague memories of my mother sewing the beautifully fringe-edged gown and cape with accompanying felt hat, I distinctly remember wearing them. This was probably the only costume I ever had which could be layered from below. Halloween on the east coast could be cold, and I’m pretty certain my costume was exposed the entire time I was trick-or-treating and not zipped up and hidden beneath my winter coat. This was first time I dressed completely in black, a trend that I would rediscover with great joy in college. (Just to be clear: the black clothing trend, not the witching trend.) But this is not why I keep it. I keep it because I like it. I enjoy the memories it conjures of my childhood: a time filled seemingly with infinite amounts of play and creativity. It reminds me of my favorite season and traipsing across leaf-covered lawns. I keep it because it makes me smile. It takes up a minuscule amount of space: it resides on a single hanger at the end of the bar in the clothes closet. There it sits year in and year out, an unofficial part of my wardrobe. Every now and again, I take it out for show-and-tell.
A few weeks ago, in anticipation of Halloween, I asked my mom if she had any photos of me in the costume. Days later, the answer arrived in my inbox in the form of the photograph (above) that she found and scanned. What a cute and good witch I was…and still am!
Today – literally today – forty years to the only day I wore it, I tried the costume on. It still fits! Well, sort of. The gown is now a mini-dress with 3/4 length sleeves. The cape snaps around my neck, but it’s snug. The hat perches gingerly atop my vastly shorter swirls of curls. This costume has enabled me to share this story and ponder memories that may not have ever come back to me. We all carry and save things from our past. It’s okay to keep them as long as they don’t get in the way of doing the things we love. I love to share stories, to inspire, and to make people laugh. I have to think that at least with the following photo, I’ve achieved one of my goals for today.