Forget Scrooge, forget the Grinch—what I really need is an iconic literary character to represent the curmudgeon I become in late October every year. What’s the matter with me? I’m only thirty-six! My own deliriously blissful Halloweens are not so terribly far behind me. How vividly I still recall the triumph of the perfect costume, the inimitable joy of that sackful of candy! The deep satisfaction of foisting the annual pile of lollipops (bleh) on my sisters in exchange for real treasure: Special Dark bars, Sweetarts, Twizzlers…
So it’s not that I’m unsympathetic to the thrill of Halloween. I guess I just haven’t successfully made the transition to the mom’s role in this particular celebration and all that that entails.
Yes, now that I think about it, it comes down to two major shortcomings in my motherhood qualifications:
1) I don’t sew.
2) I don’t shop.
You can see how this might pose a challenge to the whole costume-assembly process.
I do have some interest in learning to sew; I even treated myself to a sewing machine nine years ago upon receiving my first advance for a novel. To date, I have used it to make: some beanbags (cute if clumsy), one and a half cloth dolls (actually quite charming—the finished one, at least; the other one’s head lolls freakishly on its insufficiently stuffed neck, and its legs are different sizes); and two baby blankets (one for a friend, and since it was my first effort in the flannel blanket field, I have worried ever since that it has slowly unraveled with each wash because I failed to properly, um, what do you call it where you zigzag stitch along the raw edge of the fabric to keep it from unraveling in the wash).
Obviously, Halloween costumes are still a bit beyond my reach.
As for the shopping thing, well, I just hate it. I have no better excuse than that. The driving, the parking, the aisle after aisle of decision-making, the fretting over price, the waiting in lines, the package-lugging—I hate every single stressful, expensive minute of it. And yes, online shopping is a breeze, but you can’t easily buy bits-and-pieces of costume ingredients over the internet; and my inner curmudgeon has a prejudice against buying ready-made costumes outright. Inheriting them from neighbors, fine. But actually paying for them? Bah!
My kids start planning their costumes in July, a display of forethought which the chronic procrastinator in me finds intensely irritating. Frenzied last-minute effort has served me well my entire life—at least, it has for the trivial things like grad school papers and income taxes. But those things are tic tac toe compared to the 3-D timed chess tournament that is the dreaded Halloween costume.
So here it is the morning of the neighborhood Fall Festival, the high point of which, naturally, is the costume parade. And I still have to concoct a dragon mask for Beanie and locate appropriately fringy Native American pants for Jane to wear under the authentic red polyester beaded tunic her beloved piano teacher loaned her. (And thanks a million, Wendi, for rescuing me from the terrors of having to provide the TOP half of her costume!) Meanwhile, the ever-practical Rose rummaged through my closet and assembled a Wendy (the Peter Pan heroine, not the piano teacher) costume that 1) looks nothing like anything Wendy would actually wear and 2) pleases her immensely. So whew. One satisfying if unrecognizable costume down, two half-costumes to go.
So of course, procrastinator/curmudgeon that I am, I quite sensibly chose to begin the frantic morning by sitting down and writing a grumpy post about how the panic clock is ticking down the minutes to impending costume doom.
And don’t even get me started on the whole pumpkin-carving thing. We still have tomorrow, right?