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Embracing Frugality and Creativity When Traditions Go Awry

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This is the original Mr. Bones.* Perched on top of a storage cabinet in the dining room, he’s enjoying what we’d later look back at as his last carefree moments.

The photo was taken October 1st, the very first day of posing Bones in all kinds of fun and wacky ways around the house. Shortly after I snapped this shot, we got a little TOO fun and TOO wacky and Bones went crashing to the floor. Turns out he’s a delicate one, our Mr. Bones, and his leg popped off. (Yet another bonus of him NOT being like an elf that reports to Santa: major bodily injury would likely land us on the naughty list for a decade.)

Putting on a brave face for the kids’ sake

I had thought I’d make it a few months into this blog before I had the occasion to write about plans going awry. Based on our daily reality–we are a family of rips and trips, spills and breaks–that was hubris.

We assessed the broken Bones situation. Now what? Find a way to reattach the leg? We tried, but no luck. Keep using Bones as is? Without one of his limbs, his posing power was limited, a bummer given that October had only just begun. Shell out another $20 for a replacement? That seemed like the easiest solution.

Except I hesitated because it brought me into the murky space I occupy when it comes to purchases like holiday decorations. There’s a part of me that loves the fun and whimsy of bringing home things like posable skeletons. But there’s another part of me that admires minimalism, of living in a way that questions the American inclination to celebrate every holiday by buying lots of stuff.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve tried to be less of a black and white thinker, and this situation presented an opportunity to practice. I didn’t HAVE to go out and buy another Mr. Bones, but having a functional skeleton (what a weird phrase to type) was key to starting our new Halloween tradition. I thus decided to try out smaller versions of Bones in the hopes they’d be less injury-prone. The big guy pictured here was 36″. I bought both a 24″ and a 16″ as replacements so we could experiment with which size works best. As of today, I’d vote for the 16″ because he can fit so many places. And he was only five bucks! I’m not thrilled that my total skeleton spending totaled $40, but I know we’ll use all our Mr. Bones for years to come. I’m also happy to report that the new Bones’ limbs are all still intact.

But back to our original brave soul. What would be the fate of Mr. Bones the First? In the spirit of conscious consumption, I didn’t want to just throw him away or shove him in a box to deal with later. My first idea was to do one of those Halloween graveyards in our front yard, but a sole skeleton wouldn’t cut it; I’d need to buy, yep, MORE plastic skeletons and bones, plus plastic grave markers. Bringing home gobs more decorations definitely didn’t seem like the right solution.

I did, however, already have a ghoulish robed figure I’d bought a few weeks before as my attempt at outdoor decor. I’d originally put her –why do we always default to male pronouns for inanimate objects??– in a tree in our front yard, but she’s pretty small and without a bunch of ghost or goblin friends, she looked random. I’d moved her to our living room window and she looked less out of place there, but still a little lonely. Cue the original Mr. Bones! I hung him by his leg from our curtain rod and he looked awesome “hanging out” next to his new ghoulfriend (oh yes I did just make two puns and they were totally intended).

But. It looked weird to then have one empty panel in the three-panel window. Another skeleton hanging upside down would have looked great and was so tempting. But again, that whole part about trying not to buy more stuff. I still had a leg bone, though, and so…



Ta da!

When I first went outside to survey the random leg bone dangling in the window, I couldn’t stop laughing. It was just as random and bizarre as I suspected it might be, and macabre even by Halloween standards. Perfect.

Limitations spur creativity, right? Do you have ways you celebrate Halloween without buying a lot of stuff? Comment below!

*The original name of our skeleton was Sneaky Spook. I was unaware of the racist connotations of the word “spook” and am grateful to a good friend who alerted me to this fact. Here’s an article that explains the word’s history: https://www.newsweek.com/before-you-use-word-spooky-you-should-know-its-racist-origins-1541441. We’ve changed our guy’s name to Mr. Bones. As the wise Maya Angelou once said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

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