Haunted by Glue Guns

By Debra Larson

Bragging about his mummy costume was Paul’s mistake. Being late was mine. Combined, our errors led to a spotlight effect as I entered his first grade classroom, bagged costume in hand, for his Halloween party. I apologized and whisked him out of his creepy-snack-making activity and found an empty room in which he could change. The payoff for my nightmare to outfit Paul was moments away, when he would march back into his classroom wearing the best costume he would ever have.

I hadn’t said “no” when my six-year-old announced he wanted to be a mummy for Halloween because as the youngest of four boys, Paul usually accepted the limitations of my time, wallet or creativity. His rare persistence softened me and before reason set in I had agreed to mummify him for his school party. Besides, I thought creating a mummy costume would be as simple as wrapping him in toilet paper or slipping him into a king-sized pillowcase and drawing horizontal lines.

The chance of rain on Halloween nixed the TP idea and the pillowcase one was, well, lame. I had to come up with something Paul could wear with pride. I saw promise in linens and bought a white sheet from a thrift store. I shredded it into strips. The pile of mummy raw material looked great, like I knew what I was doing. But I had no clue how I would attach them to my son.

I am not a Supermom – a mother who has a glue gun and is prepared to use it – but an impulse buy and wishful thinking had put one in my closet. There it stayed, unopened, for over five years. I feared the glue gun as if it were a firearm. It represented one of my major deficiencies as a mother – being craft challenged. Even uncomplicated projects make me feel like my hands are on backwards.

A friend introduced Paul to Mickey Mouse pancakes at a sleepover, and he wanted me to recreate them. “It’s just three circles, Mom.” Yeah, but two of the three circles need to be smaller than the first, and they shouldn’t be in a row. No one wants caterpillar pancakes.

It took blood (mine) from safety-pinning the sheet strips to Paul’s clothes before I even looked in the direction of the closet housing the never-used glue gun. I didn’t want to stain the sheets with my blood, which unfortunately dries browner than Halloween-endorsed fake blood and therefore wouldn’t enhance the costume.

For the love of my child, I got the glue gun.

The instructions informed me the glue would be hot and not to touch it, totally missing the mark on offering encouragement. I quelled my nerves by carefully preparing my workspace and thinking through the task ahead. I lay the white strips I had cut on the table. Wrapping the first strip around a newspaper-stuffed white sweatshirt, I gently pulled the glue gun trigger. Like magic, a hot glob landed on the sheet attaching the strip to the sweatshirt. I tried another spot, and then another. This wasn’t so bad.

At one point, my trigger pulling yielded nothing. I studied the gun and saw the glue cartridge had fallen out. I searched the ground, my hunt leading me under the table. At this point my husband came in, and I explained the problem. “I think you used it up,” he said. I was slow on the uptake. “Yeah,” I said, still on my knees. “No duh. But where’s the cartridge?” Gently he said, “I think you consume the entire cartridge when you glue.” Oh. That hurt, receiving Martha Stewart advice from a man.

I slipped the next stick in place and found my rhythm. Things were progressing well, and I was pleased glue-to-skin contact didn’t melt fingerprints. Through the growing web of glue strands, I noticed I might be wrapping the strips too tightly. That was when I learned another glue gun basic – there’s no going back.

Huddled behind a bookshelf in our private classroom, Paul wiggled into the bottoms easily. The top, however, only allowed his head and one arm. This would not do. I tried coaxing his left arm in. Perhaps my facial expression had a no-compromise intensity that made Paul fear a dislocated shoulder, because the typically easygoing kid suddenly said, “I want out of here!”

Ready as he’d ever be, Paul walked into his classroom, head held high and thirty-six eager eyes on him. Batman, Harry Potter and Ninja-kid looked baffled, clearly trying to recall the species of mummy with white wrapped legs and a striped navy shirt. Fortunately, Paul’s confidence as a semi-mummy warded off evil comments, and he made it through the party unscathed. “But Mom,” he said after the party. “What will I wear Trick-or-Treating?”

After school I began the scissors massacre. My nerves frayed, I snipped wildly at the sheet strips until Paul could get into the costume. He dropped his head studying the look. Loose ends dangled. “You’re a ragged mummy,” I tried. “It’s scarier.” He was quiet. Finally, a smile emerged.

That evening, a friend complimented me on Paul’s costume. I wanted to tell her everything, the pain, the humiliation, the disappointment. But the fact was, the boy walking in front of us would make any mummy proud and was a victory for me. I had broken the curse of the mummy.

I had also conquered my fear of glue guns, which didn’t whet my appetite for craft-making, but felt good nonetheless. I realized where I do like to express my creativity, tweaking recipes and fussing with a bouquet till it sings, and of course writing. Most importantly, I learned to scrutinize sleepovers more carefully. If a friend’s family uses language like “scrapbooking,” my boy’s staying home.

About this writer

  • Debra Larson Debra Larson lives at Lake Tahoe and has been published in The Christian Science Monitor, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza in a regular column.

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