Halloween Failures

TALKING TO MYSELF: 31 October 2015 FOR ANY OF MY READERS WHO, LIKE ME, MAY BE "HALLOWEEN FAILURES." (This is an excerpt from a longer essay published in Butter in the Morning.)

". . . I was born without the creative costume gene. Despite a college degree in theater, I’m untalented at coming up with “going to be at Halloween” ideas. The best I ever did was the year I sent Becky out dressed in cardboard as a Cheerios box. Then, last week, my favorite comic strip character was ridiculed off the funny page when she went Trick or Treating as her favorite breakfast cereal. Sigh.

You have to understand that my girls’ elementary school was the Paris, France, of Halloween costumes. The children’s annual parade through the streets of our little town, Russell, garnered as much attention as the unveiling of a haute couture collection. The police blocked traffic. The mayor showed up with the editor of the newspaper. The townspeople lined the sidewalks to root for their favorites. It was Project Runway before cable existed.This competiveness caught me by surprise when my oldest daughter entered school. As a kid growing up at Natlee, I’d been delighted by thrown- together- from-out-of- the -rag-bag hoboes and ghosts. So I thought I’d outdone myself when I discovered ready-made plastic outfits at Kmart. I plucked a cartoon character off the rack, and draped it on her.How was I to know that all the other moms had spent the previous twelve months crafting heirloom creations? The Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion who looked like they’d just said good-bye to the Wizard and walked off the movie set. A museum quality Raggedy Ann with every strand of red yarn hair hand-looped and hand-knotted. A Cookie Monster with real fur dyed blue and giant eyes that moved. Oh, the list goes on and on. It was enough to make a grown woman weep, and I did. My only consolation over the years we endured these parades was that my children didn’t seem to notice how tacky they looked in their plastic, off the rack embarrassments. 

Now, as I watch them ready our grandchildren for Halloween, I grasp how much I damaged their self-esteem with my discount store ensembles. With military precision, they plan and discuss their costume options for a year in advance, and the kids go out to beg for candy in get-ups more expensive than a winter coat. Maybe two winter coats. This year, a national run on Mario Brothers outfits created a family crisis. Eliza’s “Peach” and Owen’s “Toad the Mushroom” arrived on schedule, but Jared’s “Luigi” suit was backordered. For a frantic month, Becky wrung her hands fearing it wouldn’t arrive in time. 

Trying to be helpful, I suggested our grandson might find a suitable substitution in plastic down at the Kmart. Becky gave me the “Oh, Mother” look, and returned to her Internet search for the last Luigi costume in America. She succeeded, and with a “HA” in her voice informed me that all the effort was worth it. Jared was such a standout at his Halloween outings, he said he felt like one of the Jonas Brothers. . . "     ©Copyright Georgia Green Stamper