Orange and black dots the landscape, natural and retail, as we head into Halloween. Now that my children are old enough to put together their own costumes, or perhaps forgo the whole process, I can afford to be nostalgic about dressing up little ones. Since going house to house is no longer as secure, exciting event I experience as a child, dressing up became the best part.
There was a time when I prepared for Halloween in July. I’ve always loved costumes but felt self-conscious myself. The universe has been generous enough to give me two children, a male and a female upon which to indulge my fantasy. I learned, however, that the universe has also provided them with very early opinions and a strong sense of self. Halloween was spelled “compromise.”
I dressed my daughter as a little devil for her first experience of thrills and chills. Raising an individualistic human being is such a shock for first-time parents, this could have been my Freudian slip. It may have been overkill, though, is the worst Halloween prank she was capable of doing was putting all the pumpkin “guts” back inside the hollow shell.
Her second Halloween, we taught her to distribute candy. Every time the doorbell rang, she screamed, “Kids! Treats!” For weeks the meter reader, salespeople, and soul savers were startled by this greeting often followed by shrieks of disappointment.
She had it figured out the third time around. Being a lover of smurfs and cats, she dressed as Azreal, the orange tabby on the cartoon show. After trick-or-treating at the homes of friends, we tried to bathe her. Between loud meows, she informed us emphatically that we were not to wash off the white face, black nose, and whiskers.
Periodically over the next few days, I dabbed at her face with a wet cloth, whereupon she would shriek angrily and run to the bathroom to make sure the cat face was still there. I hid her from the neighbours, concerned they might consider this neglect. It took three feet of bubbles in the tub to convince her that the kitty was “tired.”
The fourth year I dressed her as Snoopy, complete with face makeup. I guess I’m a slow learner. She refused to speak for the entire evening, expecting us to respond appropriately to bark whimpers. My husband took her to a few neighbours, one being the family with a small black poodle she adored. Every day she passed this place, she would pet the dog on the head and tell him he was pretty. Unfortunately, her costume was a bit too authentic. The poodle decided his home was being invaded by a large, poorly proportioned beagle and went after her. Daddy snatched her away from the jaws of the territorial pet, but was unable to protect her little heart from being broken. She decided Halloween really was a scary holiday.
The year I spent hours making her a tooth fairy costume, complete with embroidered bag on her hip, it snowed enough to allow Santa to ride sleigh down Main Street. The only clue to her identity was the wind mangled silver wings strapped to her snowsuit.
The next year I decided to go with the flow. She dressed as the Snow Queen in Han Christian Anderson’s classic fairytale. She wore a blue gown embroidered with silver snowflakes under her winter clothes, fuzzy white mittens, and a blue tinsel wig. It was another windy night. If I had lost sight of her, all I needed to do was follow the trail of blue tinsel.
My son preferred more traditional costumes, the more macho the better. I’ve never told him that I was tempted on his first Halloween to dress them in a suit and tie with black-rimmed glasses. He was such a plump, wrinkly baby that it would be easy to pass them off as Mr. Maggo. Instead, I dressed him as a smurf. He was about the right size and intelligence.
Although I don’t go into costumes with the same gusto anymore, I appreciate those who do. I love to attend the Halloween parade at school. Students and teachers come up with novel and weird ideas. Last year, one dressed as a black wolf. She wore a sign that said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m a vegetarian.” One student caught a quick glimpse of the sign, turned to his teacher said, “Why would I be afraid of a virgin?”
Beats me. It’s the little black poodles who are scary.
October 17, 1993