Friday, October 31, 2014

Dear Mom - Halloween is fun, don't be a jerk

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There are a bunch of people out there who want to suck the fun out of everything. Especially Halloween.

Some people want to ignore Halloween all together, or maybe worse, hand out religious tracts instead of candy. I'm not sure what they're trying to prove, but if they're trying to show love, that really isn't the way to do it.

Other people suck  the fun out of Halloween by being uber obsessive about it. They start months in advance planning complicated and expensive costumes for the whole family, and get whacked out if everyone isn't onboard because they might not win the contest.

Both of those are kind of scary and the opposite of fun.

Back in my day, (here I go sounding old) my religiously conservative family saw no problem dressing up for Halloween and going Trick or Treating. My parents didn't lecture us about Druids or create some faux alternative holiday.They also never told us what to wear or obsessed about winning any contests. We didn't plan much or spend much money. They just let my brother and me enjoy it for what it was:

An opportunity to dress up and have fun.

Right before Halloween our parents took us to the department store and let us pick out one of the generic costumes available, e.g., a clown, a ghost, a cowboy, even a witch. (Even back then we knew this was just make-believe, you see.)

The costume was always a slick synthetic onesie that tied in the back and came with a plastic mask secured by elastic. When the elastic slipped out of the cheap staples - which it always did - Mom just stuck it back through and tied it for good measure. If we couldn't see out of the eye holes, she took scissors and made the holes bigger. Ditto if we had problems breathing.

After we were dressed and it was dark and the adults said it was time, we grabbed our plastic jack o'lanterns, refused to wear our sweaters, and ran joyfully out into the frey.

When we got too old to fit or want those store-bought costumes, we still dressed up but there was little planning involved. We flew in the door after school and rummaged through our play clothes and Mom pulled out her sewing boxes to help us piece together a costume.

A felt fedora, an old sport coat, a toy gun and a little eye pencil mustache? Instant mafia member.

My velvet knickers, big old curtain rings, a bandanna and boots? Hello, lady pirate.

A leftover piece of black taffeta became a vampire cape.

With a little reworking, an old colonial school play costume transformed me into Little Miss Muffet. Not a sexy Miss Muffet, just a regular one, thank you.

Halloween was the one time of year we could be anyone we wanted to be. We never went in for creepy stuff. Blood and guts and violence just wasn't our style. But storybook fantasy? Role play? Being dramatic in public on purpose and people thinking we were awesome instead of weird? Bring it on!

Fast forward to 2002. I easily could have been one of those moms who plans elaborate family costumes. I am a drama queen by nature and had a cute baby girl to dress up. But said baby girl came into this world with her own ideas about things were to be. Including Halloween.

Her first Halloween was going to be a big deal. Grandmother bought two different costumes for her to try, because even a 10 month old girl needs wardrobe choices, right? Except MM's choice was to have nothing to do with either one of them. On top of that, by the time Halloween rolled around she had a gigantic ear infection. She spent her first Halloween wearing hand-me-down pumpkin pajamas - the only costume she would tolerate - and helping me hand out candy. (I have a picture somewhere but since I am not one of those organized mothers, I can't find it.)

Off to a false start, I hoped her second Halloween was going to be epic. Ever the optimist, Grandmother sprang for another costume, a fluffy white unicorn with rainbow wings and a golden horn. A beautiful costume....that MM would not even touch. When we tried to put it on her, she screamed bloody murder.

Frustrated and disappointed and late for a party, I tucked her into a blue dress, a hastily sewn pinafore, and some white tights on which I drew red lines with a marker. Quick thinking + red headed baby = instant Raggedy Ann.

And the poor unicorn costume? She insisted her father wear it....on his head. So he did. (I can't find a picture of that, either.)

Halloween #3 was very conventional: a Cinderella costume from her dress-up box. Not my choice and kind of boring, but at least there were no tears running down that cute little face.

For year #4, she begged me to make a Tinkerbell costume.  I did the best I could at the last minute, sewing three layers of skirt panels onto an old dance costume and buying her a blond Tinkerbell wig.

She refused to wear the blond wig or the ballet slippers, choosing instead her own kicks and some raggedy green hairpiece. Sigh. By the time we went out to Trick or Treat, she had paired it with a Ninja Turtle mask and was wearing a coat over the whole thing anyway. Double sigh.

I finally let go of the notion that I would ever be in charge of this child's costumes.

In the years that followed, we had many costumes that were either hastily cobbled together, home made, or both.

All of them were solely her idea.

When she started Montessori school, she often had two costumes each year - one for Historic Halloween at school and one for Trick or Treat. Sometimes she'd let me off easy and use one costume for both, like when she was Queen Elizabeth I....

...and Pocahontas...

But usually she had something unexpected or unconventional in mind. Like the totally made up character of the Fairy Princess of Hearts....

...and the character of Elphaba from the musical "Wicked.".She was more than a little ticked when people didn't know who that was ... when she decided to be Aayla Secura from Star Wars, she was prepared with an entire character history. I made a brown and blue outfit to her specifications. She explained her character a few times but was thrilled when all the college geeks stopped her to talk about SW characters and compliment her beautiful lekku. (That's those long blue things that hang behind her head that are neither horns nor hair. Yeah, I had to look it up, too...)

After her Star Wars phase, she entered a Notorious Women phase, choosing to dress up, not as Cleopatra (way too obvious for her), but as a more obscure yet equally scandalous character from history, that paragon of womanhood....Mata Hari

...followed the next year by the wonderful role model, the beautiful Machiavellian murderess Lucrezia Borgia. 

Try helping an elementary student do a sanitized report on either of those.

When we drew the line at her next choice - Lizzie Borden - she chose one of her favorite fictional Notorious Woman: Morticia Addams. 

I have to say, this was one of my favorites and I am very proud of how my tentacles turned out. How many mothers get to say that?

Last year, she had a two-pronged approach:

Her favorite candy by day...

....and a Zombie Prom Queen by night.

This year she was going to be a Hipster Ariel. I had to look that up before I agreed. By the time I gave my approval and designed my Ursula apron to wear while walking with her, she jumped tracks and decided to be the Mad Hatter.

Here is the fabulous hat I made to go along with the rest of her thrift store costume.

In the past twelve years, MM has made her own choices for Halloween. There has been no huge expenditure or extravagant plan or strict line she's had to toe. Basically she would have an idea and I would work with her,throwing something together that let her express her creativity and her vision.

Not mine.

Sort of like my mom did when I was growing up.

As parents, we pick our battles wisely. There are a few things in life worth getting crazy about with your kids, a few times when you need to lay down the law, a few situations when what you say goes no questions asked.

And guess what....Halloween ain't one of them.

I have to go order pizza now for the horde of girls descending on my house tonight with their crazy costumes and their laughter and their friendships and their effervescence.

I'm going to help my daughter into the costume she chose and helped make.

I'm going to take pictures of her and our exchange daughter and their friends.

My husband and I are going to hand out candy to the cute kids who ring the doorbell, and try to guess what they are as their parents smile behind them.

I'm going to wrap my sweater around me to ward off the chill. And I'm going to be happy.

Because that, Charlie Brown, is all Halloween means to me.

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