This post originally ran about three years ago. This year, our house will be launching the following into an unsuspecting world: Harry Potter, Aphrodite, a cat, the grim reaper, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, a Pink Mummy Ghost (this is a costume which started off weird and gets more confusing each year), Ming Ming, and a confused and angry baby.
You can see by the preponderance of trademarked characters that, in the three years since I wrote this piece, my give-a-damn has broken.
If you are lucky enough to slide unharmed through the Scylla and Charybdis of the Wiccans’ Samhain and decent people’s All Saint’s Day, you will probably be thinking about Halloween costumes for your kids.
I started having kids pretty young, so I went directly from wearing costumes myself to making costumes for my kids. The type of costume changed, of course. When you’re a 19-year-old pseudo intellectual, it seems hilarious to dress up as Aristotle’s Incontinent Man; but for your kids, you really need to reign in the originality. It’s less scarring that way.
The more insane daily life is, the more prone I am to wildly ambitious homemade costume ideas. If I’m pregnant, teaching several kids at home, buying a new house, going to law school, and launching an organic chinchilla farm, that’s when it seems like a good idea to whip up a batch of papier-mache. How hard could it really be to dress any reasonably robust six-year-old as an Elizabethan headless horseman, with false legs, of course, so it looks like he’s really riding on the golden Sphinx part, when he’s actually walking? If I could get a little cooperation around here, I could get something done for a change.
But my goal in these days of relative calm (I’m not pregnant, we’re unpacked and not packing, no one has a new job, and all the pets are dead) is to dress the kids in such a way that it won’t make them cry.
This is not as easy as it sounds, when you have kids who tend to cry when you do exactly what they specifically asked for, several times, with witnesses.
Also working against me is one three-year-old boy who gets angry when he’s having fun. You let him wear a cape and stay up late, and surround him with people who can’t believe how adorable he is, and who want to give him lots of candy . . . and it really rubs him the wrong way. This is the same kid who steps outside into the golden sunshine, takes a look at the butterflies wafting over the heads of gentle daisies, and yells at the top of his lungs, “IT IS NOT A BOOTIFUL DAY!”
But my biggest handicap is, as usual, myself. I know it’s supposed to be a kids’ holiday, and I genuinely want the little termites to be happy. But I’m sick. I have a disease which makes it seem important to stay up until dawn getting the tin foil details of Princess Leia’s belt exactly right, even though I know darn well that it’s going to be dark out, and no one without infrared vision could notice any flaw of authenticity, and no one with or without infrared vision would care.
Well, it’s a holiday, and that means it has to be someone’s turn to ruin things — might as well be me. But I’ll tell you the thing I really enjoy about Halloween: at least it’s not a religious holiday — I mean, Halloween as a “boo, eek, Kit-kat and Smartees, oh-how-cute” day, setting aside the issue of saints and souls and praying and such, which is for a different day.
Halloween is not like Christmas, or Easter, or Thanksgiving — you’re not supposed to be making sure your kids aren’t missing the deeper meaning of it all, and not being too materialistic, and enjoying happy times with your family, while simultaneously performing the back-breaking labor of organizing a pleasant day.
So when I tear around the house with a hot glue gun, insisting that the toddler can make supper for herself because I’m busy, dammit . . . it’s just Halloween! I may be acting like a jerk, but at least it’s not blasphemy.