by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
“Mommy, I'm a Ghost Buster – can you make my uniform?” And so did my son, Arthur, announce the most recent chapter in the fantasy life which is a long accepted aspect of childhood. He was then six, and for some months had been living out the role, garbed only in increasingly well-rehearsed sounds. He played both the doomed ghost and the Ghost Buster, often annoying his two older sisters by drafting them into the scenario.
What is a mother to do? Of course I made his 'uniform.' Since I knew it would be used well beyond Halloween I made it from sturdy gray cloth, appliqueing the letters to ensure they would not fall of the back. The ghost vacuuming devise was included, scrounged and spray painted from various sources. Arthur wore his uniform to class, as was usual at Northridge Lutheran School.
His sisters, Dawn and Ayn, had also progressed through similar fantasy lives, though Dawn grumbled about being the doomed radio operator from The Empire Strikes Back, while her younger sister went garbed as Princess Leia.
The next year they were all living out roles from Star Wars, with Arthur dressed not as Luke Skywalker but Darth Vader. His black cape swirled convincingly. The mask and chest piece were constructed from three red plastic firemen's helmets, deconstructed with scissors and reassembled with duct tape and then spray painted a shiny black. The effect was striking. Arthur made very convincing breathing sounds.
Halloween never stopped on November 1st. Costumes were worn until they were outgrown, either as wearing apparel or as personas. Sometimes they lasted long enough to play parts in the next year's birthday parties, becoming themes.
With the costume, or uniform, they took on roles, trying on a personality which sometimes allowed them to experience other worlds and realities, stretching their imaginations past the limitations all of us must experience in real life. Watching them grow and mature I was sometimes left wondering if the role had become a part of their ever changing identity. In the alternative identity of costumes we can find ourselves. Leaving behind self-imposed limitations happens, as and when, we choose.
Who will you be for Halloween this year? Will you try on a role, along with the costume, see how it fits and alter the confines of who you thought you were? We are never too old to dream.