The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Beyond The Picket Fence

Columnis, Sherryanne De La Boise
(her mother resides in Stronghurst)

It's that time of the month, groan! Time to hide in the bathroom; time to take long, hot showers.

The Visa bill has arrived.

"You spent $153 at Goodwill?" my husband bellows.

"I needed a new wardrobe. Pandemic weight," I say as I hastily retreat back into the bathroom.

"$147 at Needless Markup?" he snorts before I can slam the door.

"Moisture cream," I declare defiantly.

I can hear him as he scrolls down the seven page bill, until he hits the craft store purchases. "Who are you sewing for, this time?" he growls.

In my defense, I was asked to use cotton pillow cases, which can be washed in a river, to make 200 simple dresses for girls in poverty.

The dresses were to have deep hems (I added tucks) to let out as the girl grows, with ties at the shoulders (I do flouncy shoulders instead) and two pockets, in which a pair of stretchy, long-legged shorts (girls in poverty wear these as underpants) and a small doll are stashed.

Even Scarlett O'Hara had a beautiful dress, albeit from curtains. Why not buy some of that lovely cotton quilters' fabric and pretty trims instead of pillow cases? And thus, the Visa bill.

Do you remember the Carol Burnett spoof "Went with the Wind?" Bob Mackie designed that green dress. YouTube it, if you want to see what got the longest audience laugh in television history.

"I have started sewing costumes for a Morton Grove church's Christmas pageant, " I state defiantly.

There is a large groan, as he knows that next month's Visa bill will also be big. For, I believe that each person who gives their time to be in a pageant should know that they are very much appreciated and feel great.

This involves my making custom costumes of beautiful, quality fabric that can be cleaned and ready for many years of use.

At my church, the costume closet has multiple sizes for every role. For example, there are four Mary costumes: 5'3" tiny; 5'7" recently had a baby; 5'8" size 4x; and 6' willowy. Each has a vertically pleated, silk and ivory muslin dress with discrete side openings to be able to nurse, for we are practical Presbyterians.

We select a Jesus born in August, chubby and cute in the manager, with none of the last minute drama of "will this year's Mary have given birth by Christmas?'

Only once did I make the mistake of using McCall's pattern for Mary's cloak and headscarf.

That poor Mary had short hair. We used 100 hairpins and two cans of spray and that thing still slipped off in the middle of the Angel Gabriel telling her the good news. With all that metal in her hair, it looked like a punk rocker had joined the Holy Family.

Don't tell the minister, but since then, Mary wears a wizard's hooded cloak.

My original crowns for the three kings came from Burger King.

Since then, the crowns have been bejeweled, made of leather, made of copper wire with brilliant brown crystals, made of crushed velvet. Tall bishops and groovy berets. Always made to match the person wearing it. Making a good costume takes time, and Visa.

And, this is the season of costumes:. Halloween. I have several racks of costumes in a bedroom closet. Such memories, each one brings back. From when I did not know who the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were and made a very sweet turtle costume for a little boy; to the tooth fairy, who menaced everyone with a giant back-brush and after too many adult beverages, in a voice resembling Glenda the Good, strongly advised everyone to "brush and floss.'

Did not realize my husband had never seen the movie "Peter Pan." He had no idea who I was, when I appeared costumed as Tiger Lily.

"Are you the girl on the Land O' Lakes butter box?" When I presented him with his red, crushed velvet Captain Hook coat with brass buttons and swaggeringly handsome trim, sigh, he declared himself to be Captain Morgan, hanging out with his, ahem, much younger native chick.

Remember when we used to feel sorry for the kids who had to wear store bought costumes? They came in thin cardboard boxes with the full face mask peering out. The body was either flimsy satin or worse, one piece of printed plastic that tied at the nape of the neck. Sit too fast and the whole backside would rip out. Now, the Chinese can make them for so cheap, we have pop up stores of costumes. No imagination necessary.

Mother would spend hours adjusting a Butterwick pattern to make matching costumes. The witch year was prior to my sister having ear surgery so she could hear and thus, speak clearly. Her B, D, P, T and W's were all pronouced as B's. To our mom's embarrassment she delightedly introduced our costumes to the Minister as, "She is de Mommy Bitch, she's de Sister Bitch, and I'm de Baby Bitch."

Dad rigged up a Talking Pumpkin. He used a 2-way radio on a nearby roof (so there were no wires) while observing from a darkened window. The pumpkin would startle people by bellowing, "Hello! I'm the Talking Pumpkin." Folks would sit on the bench beside that giant pumpkin and chat. Sometimes, he was like the phone booth at Burning Man where one is invited to call and talk to God: Conversations that folks had with that Talking Pumpkin often became very esoteric.

I'm going to miss the trick or treaters. Starting in June, I blow (not crack) eggs until I have several dozen shells to fill with brightly colored confetti. When one of these eggs hits you, you are covered in a shower of confetti. I chased my great uncle Joe Peasley all around the stone house with one.He thought it was real and ran real fast. For once, my aim was true and got his forehead. Aunt Sarah was not amused at the beautiful array of colored bits of confetti that exploded.

We have a front porch with a roof perfect for sitting on and throwing candy and confetti eggs down to/at the kids. Fun to watch the adults dive for the candy and scramble to keep from getting hit with eggs. Wha ha ha haaa (evil laugh). I'm going to miss the trick or treaters.

Funny, that we are all already going around in masks, but the Governor is cancelling Halloween.

There is a positive aspect, though: I won't be purchasing all that candy, so I'll be spending less time in the bathroom, because the Visa bill will be much smaller.