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Miles to Go—Confessions of an Overachieving Mom


By Marianne Miles

The plastic costumes crowded the circular clothing rack. The price was $4.95—5% of our monthly grocery budget back in 1982, the year that Brian was in kindergarten.

“Mommy!” Brian grabbed the edge of my denim, wrap-around skirt and pointed wildly with his other hand. “It’s Papa Smurf!”

I retrieved the corner of my skirt to recover my thighs. “Yes, Sweetie, it is,” I agreed, “but we’re going to make you an Indian costume this year.” I emphasized the word with a high voice that I saved for letting the kids know something was exciting.

Brian spoke slowly and distinctly now, as if I was from some other language tribe. “But I want to be a Smurf.” His emphasis would have been more effective if he had his front teeth and hadn’t sprayed me with saliva.

“I know, Honey,” I said as I wiped my arm on my skirt, “but Grandma is sending an Indian costume that she made herself.”

He looked at me quizzically, “What does an Indian look like?”

There were no Indians on Saturday morning cartoons. These were the days of Transformers, GI Joes, and Smurfs. Mike, his father, and I were concerned about Brian watching too much TV. So, I was adamant about not buying a ready-made costume based on a TV character.

Alright, that’s not all I was thinking. In truth, there was a costume parade at Brian’s school. This was my first chance to prove myself as the perfect mom in a school setting and I wanted the win! A home-made costume meant a chance for personal glory that only a mother can know.

The next day, grandma’s muslin Indian costume arrived with lime green and amber yarn fringe down the side of the pants and around the bottom of the vest. Pheasant feathers towered heavenward from the headdress. Grandma had been busy!

I congratulated myself on my frugality as I purchased $2.50 worth of materials to complete the ensemble. Half the cost of the store bought plastic costume. I cleared my schedule to make the finishing touches. Brian and his baby brother may or may not have skipped meals because of my obsession. Maybe.

Two days before the parade I took stock in my completed efforts; imitation suede moccasins—stitched and laced, a braided yarn wig, and a Fisher Price hammer to serve as a tommy hawk. I spent about 20 mom-hours so far. (At a dollar fifty an hour the costume now cost $32.50.)

I eyed my squirming son critically. His blond curls stuck out of the wig in places. Time for a hair cut.

“What happened to you?” Mike inspected Brian as he walked in the door.

“I got a buzzzz,” Brian repeated his new vocabulary word carefully.

Mike looked at me as if I had scalped his first born—which I had. “I see that.” Mike shook his head, “Nothing is going to stop her now!” He threw Brian up on his shoulders to play.

Mike had to work late the night before the parade. I tried Brian’s costume on him one more time for adjustments. “Mommy, I’m c-cold.” and his lips did have a slight blue tint.

I briefly came to my senses. He will be OUTSIDE on a cold October evening in thin pants and a vest? No problem. I saved another sixty-five cents as I brewed a strong, tea instead of buying dye, and soaked a new white turtle neck (which cost another $4, but he could use a beige turtle neck, I reasoned.)

At dinner, Brian dribbled macaroni on his plate as he asked, “Mom, why are you staring at me?”

“Don’t talk with your mouth full, Honey.” I pinched his cheeks to bring out some color, but they still paled to a Lenox ivory.

“Ow!” Brian looked at me as if I had lost my marbles.

“Sorry, son, I was just wondering what we can do about your skin.”

He fingered his cheek as if he expected to find leprosy, “What’s wrong with it?”

“Well, it’s just so… light; not like an Indian.”

“But I thought you said I am an Indian.”

“One eight Chickasaw doesn’t help much now.” I was still thinking. Inspiration came to me like a dove descending on the Ark.

Food coloring! Of course! I added half a bottle of red (another $.27) to a puddle of beige makeup in the palm of my hand and then realized that one was oil based and the other water based. No matter. I mixed it quickly, thinking it would meld somehow and lathered Brian’s face and hands with the mess. His skin became stripped, beige and dark red.

“What’s that?” Brian asked as he stood awestruck before the mirror.

My suggestion sounded feeble, “War paint?”

He wasn’t buying it. “I’m not going.”

“Of course, you are,” I challenged brightly. “I know it’s not quite what we thought it would be, but a homemade costume counts for a lot. Besides, it is going to be fun!” He turned to slink out the door with his plastic ‘tommy hawk.’

“What’s that on your hand?” Mike asked me about the red stain on my palm as I handed him the toddler to put in the car.

I wondered briefly if the police would consider it abuse to dye your son’s face semi-permanently red. I couldn’t think about that now, the win was before me. As we drove in silence, I figured that the costume had cost our family a week’s peace and about $65.82.

Who won the costume parade? A home-made Raggedy Anne and Andy. They were cute. Perfect, in fact. Their mom wore an A+ smile.

Brian didn’t even notice our loss. He ate cotton candy, threw bean bags, and even bobbed for apples. Brian’s chin emerged from the tank with bright red streaks. Mike looked at me perplexed as to what that meant. I assured him that it would wear off with time and I fiercely rubbed my reddened palm.

As we headed to the car two parents walked in front of us with a child dressed in blue and white plastic. I hoped that Brian hadn’t seen him, but he had.

“I wish I would’ve been a Smurf,” he said.

“So do I,” I whispered.

©2009 Marianne Miles. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

*Copyrighted back columns are available for reading in archives of Comfort Cafe. Contact Marianne for reprint availability.

Marianne Miles is a free lance writer intent on bringing comfort to mom’s of special needs kids. As she and her husband raised their children, including a son with special needs, Marianne developed a passion to support hurting mothers. Her message revolves around the love and provision of God, even in times of trial. Marianne has worked as a volunteer in the public schools, home school mom, and a teacher in a private school. She writes on the subjects of family and education in the form of devotionals, magazine articles, and poetry. Marianne welcomes reader’s comments and publisher’s questions at Marianne_Miles@yahoo.com.

  1. […] of my denim, wrap-around skirt and pointed wildly with his other hand. “It’s Papa Smurf!” Confessions of an Overachieving Mom, by Marianne […]

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