I have always loved Halloween. From the widespread availability of free candy to the chance to dress up and act silly, it’s the holiday for me. It also happens to be my wedding anniversary, so win-win.
When I was growing up, our family was comfortably middle-classed. We lived in a new housing development north of Seattle, my dad owned a sand & gravel business in Kirkland and my mom got a new Cadillac every year.
In August of 1972, my dad had his first and last heart attack. Memories of flashing ambulance lights and frenetic activity that I couldn’t comprehend are the only memories I have of that night, and that’s okay with me.
Suffice it to say that our circumstances changed, and we struggled as a family to stay afloat. Mom got a full-time factory job at Frito-Lay and my oldest siblings went to work to help out.
It must have been the Halloween of 1972, because I remember that we didn’t have the extra money to buy Halloween costumes. My mom was still, understandably, in deep mourning for my dad. I don’t know how she held it together at all, but I do remember the costume I wanted that year: Big Bird.
I remember seeing the costume in the store, in all of its resplendent, yellow-feathered glory. It featured a hood-type mask with a beak that you looked through for SAFETY! The costume had wings with gloves on the ends, just like the ‘real’ Big Bird. It even came with orange booties and socks like his.
It was the coolest costume I’d ever seen, and we couldn’t afford it. I’m sure I cried and pouted and made my mom feel bad (I’m sorry, mom) for not buying it for me, but I dont really remember that part.
What I remember best about that Halloween are the efforts of my big brother, Willie. He knew I wanted that costume so badly I could taste it, and he also knew there was no money to get it, so can you guess what he did?
He scraped up enough to buy some yellow feathers, a pair of orange socks, some construction paper and glue.
He used paper grocery sacks for the body and the head, and constructed paper wings that slipped over my arms. I think he didnt have enough for gloves for my hands, but I didnt care. Orange construction paper gave me a beak to peer out of, orange socks became my bird legs, and copious yellow feathers completed the look.
Somewhere, either in my piles of photos or in my sister’s well-kept photo albums, there is a picture of a little girl in a homemade Big Bird costume.
Her world had been shaken, her Daddy bird lost, but her smile reflects every bit of love put into that costume.
Thanks, Willie. I love you......
RIP Willis Grover Nesbitt 1928-1972
RIP Willis Garnet Nesbitt 1959-1989
RIP Laura May Nesbitt 1923-1991