When I was growing up, my grandmother taught me how to use a sewing machine and make clothes. Oh yes, I know how to sew. And I do not like it. Trying to follow pattern instructions, correctly insert a zipper, hand-sew a straight hemline—these are things that make me sweaty and cranky and give me migraines. And still, I made almost all of my daughter’s Halloween costumes as she was growing up. Because she was my kid, it was her one childhood, and I’m a masochist.
I don’t mean bedsheet ghost costumes. I mean Marie Antoinette, with layered skirts and elaborate pearl-and-rose festooned wig. A Dorothy costume that was a real, tailored little Dorothy dress, not the blue-gingham polyester, one-size-fits-all, sack-like thing you could buy at Party Fair. I even made her ruby slippers—perhaps not brilliantly engineered, but it was kind of magical that she left a red-glitter trail all over our neighborhood, trick-or-treating.
The year my daughter was nine, we decided she would be a flower fairy for Halloween. The body of the costume was easy; I had a long, gauzy, watercolor-patterned skirt that we pulled up to her neck and cut holes in, for her arms. She wore this over a leotard and tights, with store-bought fairy wings. The special thing that pulled the whole costume magically together was the headpiece I made for her—a tiara of silky, autumnal flowers and leaves. I shaped a sturdy headband from florist’s wire, covered it with purple felt, and hand-sewed onto it dusky roses, ivy, and maple leaves (some of them sparkly with crystal glitter), creating a halo of autumn beauty to frame my little girl’s lovely face.
So, perhaps you’re wondering when this story is going to get scary. Here we go.
While I was sewing the fairy headpiece over a couple of nights, I’d sit on the couch and watch TV. On breaks, I’d stick the sewing needle into the arm of the couch, get up, put my daughter to bed, putter around, etc. The night I finished the headpiece, I stuck the needle in the arm of the couch and, apparently, forgot about it—until Hobson found it.
Hobson is our cat. Hobson ate the needle. How did we figure this out? Hobson, ordinarily very good-natured and friendly, stopped eating, purring, and lap-sitting. And although he is a black-and-white cat, he began to look distinctly green. Glassy eyed. Our vet told us he had a virus, and it would pass. So we took him back home and waited a day or two, in vain, for Hobson’s purr to return. We went back to the vet and recoiled in horror when an x-ray revealed the ghostly white silhouette of a sewing needle lodged in his intestine.
I know, right? Scary. Obviously, I didn’t feel too good about this.
Hobson had surgery and got his appetite and purr back. He forgave me instantly, because he is a cat and naturally a very serene and zenlike creature. And perhaps he felt that a one-thousand-dollar veterinary bill was punishment enough.
So, this is a scary story with a nice ending. There is no sad little tuxedo-cat ghost gliding silently through my house; just a sweet, live one. And we are very, very careful not to leave bite-sized, gleaming, sharp objects lying about. EVER. Happy Halloween!
Shelle Sumners lives and writes in Bucks County, PA. Her debut novel Grace Grows is a Featured Alternate selection for Doubleday, Literary Guild and Rhapsody Book Clubs and is being published internationally. It has a companion soundtrack of phenomenal original songs that appear in the story, written and performed by her husband, singer-songwriter and Broadway actor Lee Morgan.