The box sits in my garage. Buried. When I say box, I really mean one of those 50-gallon tubs with the snap-tight lids that are supposed to keep stored items safe from dust, water, rodents, what have you. Ours needs protection from all of those things. Simply put, the garage is the victim of a home remodel and its predecessor, the inheritance of a plethora of keepsakes, clothes and junk from our parents.
Otherwise known as “the stuff house” to his boyhood friends, my husband’s parents’ house was rented last year in order to help pay the increasing health care costs for his ailing mother. It is amazing what you find when you are forced to clean out a house that was lived in by a family for more than 40 years. Especially a family influenced by depression-era saving. A whisper shy of hoarding, everything was safely stored so it could be re-purposed. Or, as they would call it in today’s lingo, “being green.” Empty Kleenex boxes served as jewelry receptacles. Keepsakes were found in toolboxes next to the hammer. Drawers contained a mixture of coupons, receipts, pictures, books and maybe a scarf or two.
This house was “green” on steroids. Fifteen years ago, my husband and I spent the first two months of our marriage living in the study of “the stuff house.” Still trying to impress my new in-laws, one interminable summer day, I thought I would clean out the cabinets of the upstairs bathroom. The cabinets were old, as were their contents. Not necessarily dirty though, so my job was more along the lines of sorting my findings. I do not remember all that I threw out or all that I sorted that day, however I do remember ending up with a basket brimming over of give-away plastic key chains, stamped with the logos of almost every business in town. This was in the age before the recycle bin, so I put them out for the trash collector. As I found out months later, every last key chain was, in fact, collected from that curb -- by my mother-in-law, who quietly snuck each one back in the house. I guess an extra key chain, or a hundred, are handy to have around?
Despite my protests, last year, the senseless treasures of the “stuff house” matriculated into my garage. I fought it. I really did. But in the end, efficiency and sentiment triumphed and every week, more boxes found their way into my husband’s car and our house. Mind you, it is not all bad: when we were invited to an 80’s party last year, my husband handed me his original acid-washed blue jeans, dug out of the piles that flanked my parked car. He even had a paisley shirt to match. Done and done.
We have been trying to organize. So, after I finished reliving my teens in my like totally awesome acid wash jeans, I deposited them into our costume box. The costume box contains nothing in a child size. Instead, the box contains reminders of Halloweens past, bringing back memories of wild nights and pre-children, even pre-marriage, morality. Some of our costumes were more conservative. The time we were salt and pepper shakers our costume required nothing fancier than black and white street clothes with billowy, hand-made aluminum foil hats. There were outlandish costumes, such as the year we were Drew Carey and Mimi. That blue eyeshadow I wore was exquisite, like blue frosting iced across my eyelids. That night we danced under the stars in a rural neighborhood where loud music escaped heedlessly and good friends tried to drink each other under the table.
Our 70’s costumes are also in the box. Now that is a sexy dress: brown with yellow and white flowers and lots of cleavage. Lots of cleavage. I was pregnant that Halloween. We returned to the same house. Again, we danced under the stars until the wee hours of the morning.
And then there was the year we were pirates. I don’t remember much about that year, except that I think we may have been on a double decker bus touring downtown San Diego like a wild bunch of banshees. Pre-kids. Not pre-marriage. Ten years later, we took that bus trip again. Me as a sexy nurse, my husband as Dr. Feelursnatch.
This year, there will be no organized parties for us. We are getting smarter or lazier, take your pick. We will take our children trick-or-treating, but the effort we previously put into our costumes will now be channeled into pulling our cooler full of beer down the block, as our kids run from house to house. The first year we pulled the cooler, we forgot drinks for the kids. When my daughter (age five at the time) cried from thirst, I was lucky enough to knock on the door of another mother that I knew from PTA. As she handed my daughter water, she spied the cooler through the dark night. Her puzzled look was quickly followed by scowl of disgust as she realized what made up our cooler’s contents. My daughter did not notice. I did not mind. I did not have a crying child to deal with anymore. Done and done.
So why do we save the box of costumes in the garage? Honestly, mostly because we treasure our authentic 80’s clothes contained within. Saving the Halloween costumes is just a bonus.