Hallowe’en was a big deal in my family of origin. My mom went all out on the homemade costumes, her efforts peaking the year we 3 oldest kids were a mailbox, a pencil, and a letter to the Great Pumpkin. That’s a lot of poster board and Magic Markers.
One could argue she spent so much time on this because of the 1950s ethos of motherhood. She didn’t work outside the house. Or one could reject one’s spoilsport tendencies and remember fun. So much fun.
Besides, I carried her spirit into my own parenting. My best friend and I, her four kids, my two, would meet up at my house for dinner and then run through the sidewalked neighborhood, into the night. I made little ghosts out of rice. Stood sections of hot dogs on end and told the kids they were “Hallow-weenies.” At the end, we’d go back to my house and lay out candy on the floor for a marathon sorting party. My best friend and I would have medalled in Hallowe’en, if parenting were a sport.
I made my kids’ costumes just like Mom did. My daughter was always a heroine. Peter Pan (better than dumb Wendy in her nightgown, right?), Wonder Woman, Diana – Goddess of the Hunt. Or Artemis, if you follow the Greek tradition. My son’s costumes always included an intellectual construct of some sort. The year he memorized the California Insect Handbook, he was a bug. Once I made a potato costume. Yes, a potato can be an intellectual construct, when you try to wear it.
Then one day my little critters looked around and realized that the American culture had other plans in mind for them. My son made me buy a ninja costume. My daughter went with two other friends, all three witches. It’s as though society seizes pre-adolescents, shakes them by the ears, and says, “If we’re talking scary, get thee to your gender stereotype. Get thee there right now!”
There they stayed, for some time.
Now my daughter has returned to super-human characters, albeit those that showcase her appeal. Popular culture came to her aid via the red-headed vampire on True Blood. One might wonder if the rise of the vampire as Good Guy isn’t a defining trait of this early century. My son is again sporting quirky costumes that take a minute to figure out. Last year he was Pikaju, the Pokemon character, complete with red cheeks. Pikaju in blue jeans, that is.
I kind of wish my daughter could still be Peter Pan, I admit. Don’t listen to this song or you are likely to cry. And my son’s costume this year, which I’m going to refrain from describing, had me shaking my head and muttering, “Well, I guess that’s comical. But, um, also a little offensive?” He promises me it was great fun.
Your kids dive into popular culture, out of your little twig nest, and emerge wet behind the ears. You stand on the far bank, holding a loving but impractical towel. Diving birds do not need towels, silly mama.
Happy Hallowe’en everyone, and here’s to a wonderful weekend. I hope all your little Peter Pans, Ninjas, and Black Cat Fairy Witches get so much candy they can’t see over the heap. Or they feel it’s so, for one night.