The History of Halloween in my Household and the Quest for the Perfect Costume

Halloween was much easier when my
children were younger.  When they were
infants until about the age of 3, I simply flipped through whatever cute
children’s costume catalog that was stuffed in my mailbox and picked the
sweetest, cuddliest, most gender-neutral (’cause I knew more babies were coming
and if I was going to fork over $65-70, it was going to be worn by multiple
toddlers) costume I could find.  All
three of my children took a turn as a fuzzy, snuggly teddy bear, fluffy black
kitty cat or fleece elephant with an adorable trunk that stuck straight on top
of each little head.

And then came Elementary School,
and Cassie discovered Pokémon.  Sure, I
could find a cute Pikachu costume for her at the store, but, alas, Cass had to have
a very specific Pokémon costume and she was stuck with a mother who brought all
sewing projects to the dry cleaner.  This
detailed Pokémon costume was clearly beyond my skill level and could not be
made with a stapler or glue gun.  I had
no choice but to pay someone else’s mother a ridiculous amount to make the
costume and ship it to me from Canada.

 By the time that my boys were
ready to pick their own costumes, Cass was on her second elaborate Pokémon costume.  (I can only imagine her Canadian mother’s
gleeful cackle as she received yet another order from me.)  I had clearly given up.  No more cute, original costumes for my
kids.  After each boy had their turn with
the bear, cat and elephant costume, it was off to the Disney store or Target
for a licensed character, pre-packaged, accessories-not-included costume.  Gone were the days of my input.

 For one split second in time,
Halloween was easy. Sure, I mourned the loss of the Lillian Vernon costume, but
it really was so much easier to just stop at the store two weeks before
Halloween.  Cassie was content with her
pre-packaged pirate girl and rock star costumes.  Phillip and Brooks developed an efficient
costume hunting system:  the boys would
choose their theme by picking the coolest accessory (weapon) on display and
then pick whichever costume was closest to the accessory (gun or sword).   All
three kids were content until last year.

 The costumes at the Disney store
were suddenly too young for the boys, and the selection at Target left much to
be desired.  I was confronted by a choice
that I had been trying to avoid for years: 
the pop-up-in-an-abandoned-strip-mall-store-front Halloween shop.   How I
dreaded walking into one of the ramshackle dingy, dilapidated stores with their
names like Spirit Halloween Store, The Halloween Store and Halloween printed on
uninspired banners.  I shuddered as I
imagined the broken, dirty tile floors and dusty light fixtures.  I was determined not to be the Mom-Who-Ruined-Halloween,
so I grabbed some hand sanitizer and drove my children to pick out their

 The following is a warning to all
of those Halloween strip-mall virgin visitors: 
do not visit these stores if you or your children are afraid of the
dark, the basement, the crawl space, under your own bed or prone to
nightmares.  These
stores should be rated “R” for the incredibly gory decorations, costumes, masks
and very spooky music and moaning noises. 
There are no signs outside the store to warn parents and their young

Upon entering the store, my
children and I were “greeted” by some freakishly life-like, hideous zombie
creature’s upper torso, which was scooting around the floor using his bloody, robot
hands and moaning in agony.  I,
completely unprepared for such a welcome, screamed.  Phillip, then a third grader, jumped behind
me and buried his face in the back of my jacket.  Brooks, the then fearless Kindergartner,
grabbed my hand in his and started squeezing. 
Cassie, my sixth grader, simply looked around with curiosity.  (Apparently, the halls of junior high school
provide more horror than the Halloween store.) 
The teenage cashier finished laughing at us, and then grunted in the
direction of what I assumed to be the children’s section.  The boys and I stumbled over to check out the
costumes, and Cassie was left to peruse the costumes on her own.    

The selection at the Halloween
store was ample, though the prices were higher than a comparable Target costume.  While still clutching my hand in a vise-like
grip, Brooks quickly reverted to the system and picked his accessory (a very
long sword with be-jeweled handle) and skeleton costume somewhere near the
sword.  Phillip, whose head was still
buried in my back and whose arms were wrapped around my waist, was clearly not
in the mood to pick his own costume.  He
just kept repeating over and over again, “Mama, I really don’t need a Halloween
costume this year.  Can we please just go
home?”  He managed to lift his head
briefly enough to agree with his younger brother’s costume choice.            

Meanwhile, Cassie was still
struggling to find a costume.  Every
costume that I would suggest for her, she muttered was “too baby-ish” (her
words), while every costume she brought me was “too slutty” (my words).  She finally spotted a pair of incredibly
large, heavy butterfly wings for $40.  At
this point, I was seriously worried that I would either faint from all of the
rapid shallow breathing that Phillip’s grip was causing me to do or that I
would lose my hand as Brooks was still clasping it.  I relented and bought the darn wings, which
we realized later were too heavy to last an entire night of trick-or-treating. 

We left the Halloween store of
horrors with $140 less in our bank account, a reminder from the teenage cashier
that all sales were final (as if I couldn’t read the 800 pieces of paper taped
to every surface area not covered in decapitated heads and gore) and a week’s
worth of nightmares for the boys and me. 
So, please, dear friends and readers, enter these stores with
caution.  I would highly suggest going by
yourself before bringing any children with you, or if you are as squeamish as I
am, ask a neighbor or spouse to go first. 

What about this year,
though?  Halloween is rapidly approaching
and, as usual, my children still don’t have costumes.  Well, as I completely refuse to ever enter one
of those tear-down-pack-up-and-move-in-an-afternoon store front of Halloween horrors,
I fear that my children are left with only one choice.  They will spend this weekend engaged in a
Halloween tradition left over from my childhood.  They will search our house and create their
own costume.  Sure, I know that they will
complain and whine and groan over this prospect.  But, hopefully, years from now, they will
remember this Halloween as the year they were —- created with some duct tape,
cardboard boxes, old sheets and towels and assembled by a stapler and glue gun
and a whole lot of imagination!


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  • I'm glad I read this, because I drove by one of those Halloween pop up stores and was going to take the little guy there! Think I'll be skipping it and using household items too!

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