Uh. I just realized that Halloween is in
five four days. Usually we have plenty of time to spend dreaming, thinking and rethinking costumes. This year we have barely had time to watch Charlie Brown, squeeze in a quick trip to the pumpkin patch, and costumes? Not a thought….as far as I know. Maybe my little ones have learned enough to not mention it too much when I’m already overloaded with busy. Plus, Halloween has never really been a huge focus for me.
It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of the whole Halloween thing, From the commercialization to the scary/evil emphasis….it’s just not my cup of tea. I do, however, remember being a child and experiencing the thrill of anticipation related to trick-or-treating. And, I full-well remember the inevitable disappointment with the ultimate dismal plunder gathered after trudging through the cold every year. Still, I enjoyed anticipating the day, dressing up, and getting to run around the neighborhood (rain, cold, or snow) with my friends trying to fill our bags to the brim…..seeking the few treasures known as full-sized candy bars that could only be found at a few rare houses. Trick-or-treating was always a highlight for my siblings and me; but I do believe my mom must have held the same lack of enthusiasm about the so-called holiday as we never had “real” costumes. Or, maybe she was just tired and busy. Quite possible. Either way, we dressed as “hobos” every year (i.e., we threw together whatever we could find to wear, stuffed a pillow in our shirts, and called it a “hobo costume”). We would scrounge around for a paper bag or pillow case, and each year we set out to seek our fortune…. but never brought home nearly as much candy as we had envisioned. We always had to give up before we could fill the bags because we were always freezing to the point we couldn’t feel our feet or hands anymore. THIS was the joy we anticipated every Halloween.
So, with that being said, I carried on the lackluster desire to invest much time or money in those Halloween costumes. Mostly I couldn’t bring myself to spend good money for costumes which would be worn once (or so I thought) for a holiday I pretty much loathed. Plus, I survived without costumes. I was certain I could manage with out spending money on this event.
As a result, my big boys never really had “real” costumes. Not in the beginning anyway. For a while I was able to get away with, “How about you all be cowboys?” A cowboy hat and a cute little boy….viola! Costume done!
But that all changed one year when my second son dreamed of being a big, fluffy, round, orange pumpkin. He had most likely seen a pumpkin costume on T.V,. or on another kid, or in a magazine. I, in my frugalness, decided I could improvise. Some trash bag company had come out with those orange trash bags you could fill with your fall leaves. They even had jack-o-lantern faces on them. In my mind….a perfect alternative to purchasing a costume. Normally, I would never even spend the extra money for those specialty trash bags….unless they were marked down and I had a coupon. But, this year, I figured I could invest in the orange trash bags, use some for leaves, set them out in the yard for decor, and I could use one to make a pumpkin costume for this child. Getting a bang for my buck with multi-purposes for this purchase. What a deal! Great idea. Or so I thought.
I cut holes for his body and his arms, figured out a way to tie it around his neck, and filled the bag with scrunched up newspapers. I can’t say he was overly excited about the “costume”, but he didn’t complain either. I’m sure he was trying to spare my feelings. We set out for the Wednesday morning library program a few days before the actual big trick-or-treating day. I thought I had pulled it off…..until in the middle of the library Halloween celebration this child came to me with huge crocodile, cartoon-like tears because his stuffing was falling out. His pumpkin was sagging. His heart was breaking. After trying to salvage the costume with the librarian’s stapler and stuffing the falling newspapers back into the bag, I looked into his large, blue, tear-filled eyes. I could see deep into his soul…I was crushing his spirit. His childlike wonder was fading. He was learning that he had better not dream or ask for the his desires of his heart. I know this was not a big issue like childhood hunger, cancer, or homelessness. But, I could see his disappointment and crushing spirit under his sagging orange crushing “costume”.
I knew I had screwed up. I just created a memory alright, but it wasn’t the memory I wanted for him. Out of pure mommy guilt, we left the library and headed straight for the party store. I had a few days before the main event to restore his faith in childhood dreams….restore his faith in his mom. Not only was I prepared to let him get the pumpkin costume he wanted, but I was prepared to pay full price for it. AND, if need be, I was prepared to walk out of the store with three costumes if it came to that. I had an opportunity to alter the memory of this Halloween, and by golly, I was willing to mortgage the farm to do it.
After the library program, and even though it was lunchtime and I knew I was risking low blood sugar, hungry boys and a grouchy mommy; I herded my crew of boys into the mini-van, drove to the party store, marched straight to the children’s costumes to find the pumpkin costumes. Now, I can’t remember if they were sold out of pumpkin costumes his size or if he was immediately taken with the display of Spiderman costumes, but we came home with a Spiderman costume….one Spiderman costume….and one happy boy. To this day, I don’t know how I managed getting out of buying costumes for all of them. They probably didn’t even ask….such sweet little boys.
I had done it. I had salvaged Halloween. But. He never got to be that adorable little pumpkin. He only experienced being a trash bag pumpkin. I will live with that regret forever. I regret seizing this moment of childhood wonder and excitement. Sure, he was much happier with his new Spiderman costume than the orange trash bag. And, he was the only child with a “real” costume. But, to this day, that memory remains in the “you screwed up” parenting file in my brain. That file is pretty full….let me tell you.
So, that is why today, while I should be getting back to focusing on a full school day now that the latest play is finished…..today I will be checking in with my little ones to make sure they are satisfied with whatever costumes they choose. I’m still not a big fan of Halloween. But I am a big fan of my kids, and I do want to try to give them happy memories when/if they see pictures of themselves one day. I want them to look at those photos and remember being excited about their costume, excited about that day and their experience. I want to do my part to give them happy childhood memories.
So, yes, it’s down to the wire. In past years, we have thought, planned and prepared long before October 27th. Times are a changing with only a few trick-or-treaters left in the brood. But, like all other childhood experiences, I want and need to finish strong for these little ones. It could be too easy to let it slide with the belief that we’ve been there, done that. Yes, I’ve been there, done that….many, many times. But, this is their only childhood. I’ve learned my lesson well. No more trash bag costumes….unless they want to go as a bag of trash. It’s possible.