Time For Costume Chaos

A lot of the presidential candidates currently are masquerading as Masters of the Universe, but Halloween is still for the kids.

Let us honor parents across America who’ve become screeching train wrecks in pursuit of the perfect costumes for the kiddies.

So much pressure to execute a progeny’s bright ideas. So many chances to disappoint. To frustrate. To get a little freakin’ weird, even. (Perhaps I speak only for myself on that last one.)

As an abandoned parent of grown children, I promise you younger parents: One day, you will miss this costuming chaos of Halloween.

For one thing, right now your children are still young enough to believe that you can make the magic. For another, you’re still young enough to take them trick-or-treating without needing a bathroom stop. Oh-ho-ho. You’re laughing. Now.

When my kids were little, Halloween brought out the competitor in me. I’m not proud of that, but there you have it. I used to spend days, sometimes weeks, agonizing over how to come through for my kids so they wouldn’t be the umpteenth clown wearing the curly rainbow wig. Again, I mean.

Looking back, I can see that maybe I got a little carried away. I blame it on the 9-year-old Count Dracula in my son’s third-grade class, who walked around in his own cloud of dry ice. So annoying, that mother.

“Wow,” my son the clown kept saying. “Wow.”

One year, my daughter wanted to be a leopard. “A real one, Mommy,” she said. “Not a fake store one.” Whatever the heck that meant.

Repeatedly, I prodded. “What do you mean by real, honey?” Every time, she just smiled and said, “You know.”


I dyed a leotard and a pair of tights a fetching shade of yellowish orange and then stitched a dozen felt spots onto the torso. She loved it. For a whole 35 seconds.

“Where are the spots on my legs?” she screeched as she turned round and round in front of the full-length mirror.

Bad mommy.

The next day, I enlisted the help of a 62-year-old colleague who sat next to me in the newsroom. Lou was a tough reporter, the kind who made police chiefs cry. Inexplicably, he agreed to let me pull the tights onto his outstretched arms so that I could draw 22 leopard spots. We did this in the middle of the newsroom, which in that desperate moment struck me as a perfectly normal way to spend one’s lunch hour two days before Halloween.

The next year, she wanted to be Mrs. Doubtfire, the movie father pretending to be his estranged wife’s female housekeeper so he could see more of his kids. I was a newly single mother, so you can imagine the guilt driving this costume-stitchin’ mama.

I rented a gray-haired wig and granny glasses. Then I sewed stuffing into one of my bras. Great idea, until our cat Winnie found the bra while I was engaged in serious conversation with our new landlord, a guy. Both of us tried to ignore the poofy mounds of pastel blue inching their way across the dining room floor. Both of us failed.

My son had a whole different approach to costumes. He liked to be large, inanimate objects. When he was 10, he wanted to be a life-size U.S. Postal Service mailbox. You’ve seen them — big blue boxes with eagle emblems on the front.

Took me two weeks. When it was finished, his face peered out of the mail slot. In the only picture that survived, he looks as if he’s being held captive by the government. After Halloween, I put the mailbox out for the trash. Almost immediately, a stranger pulled up and put it in her trunk.

That was 22 years ago. Still, I’ll bet somewhere in America this Halloween, another parent’s kid will be trick-or-treating in that vintage U.S. Postal Service mailbox.

Which is cheating, by the way.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.



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