Is it a good idea to crochet a bikini?
My mother thought so, and my debut as a bikini model took place at the public swimming pool. My mom and I walked hand in hand, her wearing what mom’s fashion was and me wrapped in knots of yarn. I slipped into the pool and my thirsty swimsuit swallowed water and grew, the thread burst and knotted, my bikini exploded and came off my body in an instant.
I screamed and my mother came running to wrap me in a towel. The remnants of my bikini came to life about a foot below the surface of the water, amorphous specks rolling with the pool currents like jellyfish.
I was young enough to be the only one affected by this wardrobe malfunction.
And there was the year I dressed up as a pumpkin for Halloween. I wore green tights and a mom-made pumpkin costume of bulky orange fabric with elasticated neck, arm, and leg holes. The costume was rounded off by stuffing it with balloons, so I couldn’t sit down without a sudden, shocking deflation. After I stayed in the bushes (aka the pumpkin patch) to take pictures, we headed out for a party. I spent the car ride standing in the back seat, holding onto the driver’s seat headrest.
I inherited my mother’s creative exuberance and attention to detail.
I got into designing unconventional Halloween costumes. One year I was a box of bandages, the next I was a tube of toothpaste. The town I grew up in has old houses with closed porches and narrow doors. I made the Band-Aid box frame so wide that I couldn’t fool it or process it completely. I had to wait on the boardwalk and hope my friends would buy me some high end candy like Baby Ruth or Hershey’s and not stick me with the candy corn. The toothpaste tube was great except the bottom of the tube was so pinched I spent the evening bouncing back and forth from house to house with the white bucket cap rattling on my shoulders, the cutout for my constantly moving eyes.
My trash can costume almost got rewarded. My mom and I punched a hole in the bottom of a round laundry basket, lined the inside with a trash bag, and painted the outside to look like a tin can. I stepped in and we slung it over my shoulders with my dad’s suspenders. My mother was cleaning and tying up the bins until my can was overflowing – cartons of milk, pots of yogurt, heaps of paper towels and even a banana peel. I went to the town parade to parade in all my filthy glory and the costume contest judges even wrote down my name. When the parade ended, I cut a path through the crowd to head home and the trick or treat. People I passed stuffed their coffee cups and wrappers, their real garbage, into my carefully selected costume.
Should my costumes be scarier and less utilitarian? If I had known the importance of having a sexy Halloween, could I have been a sexy trash can? I’ll never know because I gave up costume making after my coronation.
Several Augusts ago, my brother and my sister-in-law had their first baby girl. I first met her in October and when my brother said he wanted his Halloween costume to be “the new sheriff in town” my creative engine kicked in. We plotted, shopped and stitched. My 2 month old niece cried and kicked through the costume fittings, but when it all came together she was the law of the land and I retired from costume making.
My mother’s greatest creative triumph is a doll destined for the trash. She used to do it for me and threw it away when she wasn’t happy with her job. I found the doll, adopted her, named her Pebbles, and carried her around for years. I loved him so much that his cloth body became worn and broken. Sometimes his arms, legs and even his head fell off. Pebbles was stuffed in old pantyhose and the nylon legs were bleeding from his wounds. My mom was worried the stockings would strangle me at night, so she operated on Pebbles while I slept and got her back to my bed before I woke up in the morning.
I loved Pebbles and wonder if, if she had been perfect, she would have been so perfect for me.
Fashion designers know how to make clothes so that your child does not end up naked in the pool. It is important.
What my mother always knew and what I know thanks to her is that love fills the holes in any plan. And that’s all.
Note to my mom: Yes, I agree that crochet swimsuits are all the rage, are in every magazine, and you were ahead of your time.
Erin O’Mara lives in Harpswell and sits on the board of Harpswell News.