Sweat and saliva streaked down my face. The plastic mask stuck to sticky places as I tried to take shallow breaths through the tiny nostril holes. Death via suffocation seemed imminent, but I didn’t care. I’d achieved my heart’s desire – a store-bought Halloween costume. No makeshift hobo costume cribbed from my brothers’ clothing for me. This was it. The real deal. A shimmery satin dress and a Cinderella mask, complete with crown.
I may have won the costume war, but I lost the battle of the boots. Heartlessly ignoring my tears, my mother sent me out trick-or-treating wearing boots, a bulky sweater and corduroy pants topped by the thin blue satin gown. Even my formidable imagination couldn’t transform moon boots into glass slippers. If Cinderella had gone to the ball like this, Prince Charming wouldn’t have given her a second look.
That year at age 6, I learned several things:
Being a princess can be very uncomfortable.
You cannot cram a Tootsie Roll through the mouth slit of a plastic mask.
Corduroys offer good padding when you trip on your satin Cinderella dress.
I also developed a lasting antipathy to Halloween. It just seemed like an awful lot of work went into gathering a pillow case full of candy that would be gone within a week. (Self-control has never been my strong suit.)
Flash forward 20 years. A houseful of little boys clamors for costumes and candy. My mom is now a doting grandma and a fan of store-bought costumes. She decks my kids out in a series of adorable outfits. The great thing about having all boys is that the costumes are handed down from one dude to the next.
A cascade of family snapshots shows a series of Buzz Lightyears, clowns, G.I. Joes, furry tigers and darling pumpkins. A few ill-fated choices like the fireman costume didn’t last long. (The plastic yellow slicker ripped and the ax broke on a brother’s head). The ninja costume was passed down, sans sword (see ax issue above).
As the boys grew older they became more invested in their Halloween garb. In other words they wanted scary. Like Freddy Krueger scary. “Not on my dime,” I said. Grandma wouldn’t spring for creepy costumes, either. This forced the kids to be creative.
They dug into my makeup and the zombie look was born. Over the years, we had Hobo Zombie, Skater Zombie and Bloody Zombie. We also had Bloody Hockey Player and Bloody Hit and Run Victim – the boys saved their allowance money and bought fake blood in bulk.
And then, seemingly overnight, we ran out of little boys who counted the hours to trick-or-treat time. Instead, we have teenagers who can buy their own candy. Only two jack-o’-lanterns sit on our porch – one of them carved by my husband.
Somewhere along the way my antipathy to Halloween melted. Was it when I used my expensive eyeliner to draw whiskers on a chubby-cheeked tiger? Did it happen when a baby clown covered my face with sucker-sticky kisses? Or maybe it was when I watched our three older boys work together to plan their costumes and their trick-or-treat route. Their shared anticipation proved contagious.
A house without Halloween plans seems awfully silent this time of year. That’s when I turned my attention to our cats. When Derek saw me checking out the costumes at the pet store he blanched. “You wouldn’t!” he said. “You couldn’t!”
Of course I could.
A couple years ago Milo was a mouse for Halloween. Then we found a Santa hat for Thor, and a new tradition was born. It’s not like I’m a crazy cat lady or anything. I mean, I only buy one costume per year. (Poor Thor gets the hand-me-downs).
This year I found a devil costume that I couldn’t resist. Turns out Milo could. Thankfully, Thor doesn’t move quite as quickly.
You may scoff, but recently I saw a little dog wearing a pink down vest – and it wasn’t even Halloween!
And I have many adult friends who gleefully dress up, spending exorbitant amounts of time and money creating the perfect costumes. Several downtown night spots even host Halloween parties and costume contests.
Now that’s just silly.
Halloween should be a holiday for children.
And really cute cats.