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Halloween Then vs. Now

Photograph by Getty Images/Cultura RF

I have totally missed the Halloween boat, and my kids are going to be pissed. They know I missed the boat, because yesterday when they brought the mail up to the house, their little faces were scrunched up as they held back the tears. “What's wrong?" I asked, "Was there a dead animal in the mail box?”

“No, mommy. You are late for Halloween! The Chasing Fireflies CHRISTMAS catalog is here and we still. don’t. have. costumes!”

They have been telling me for weeks it's time to prepare, but I have been so busy at PTA Meetings and planning "Bake Sale Slash Car Washes," that I haven't had time to properly peruse the one hundred and forty six Halloween Catalogs stacked in my corner So Elsa? All sold out. Emmet?He’s gone too. Slim pickings if you’re looking for Anna or Olaf. And since I haven’t bought any pumpkins or orange glittery gourds, our house may not win the best decorated this year. Not that it ever does, but sometimes I do manage to buy some mums.

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The Halloween of my youth was a simpler beast. I recall running to the neighborhood drugstore and grabbing a witch or Superwoman costume in the plastic case on a hanger hook while my mom grabbed whatever candy was left. Then we would grab one of those little plastic pumpkins with the black plastic handle for me to collect my booty in and call it a day.

The Halloween I remember was good, simple and fun—you dressed up and ate candy. My memories of Halloween are all scented with the cheap plasticy smell of those drugstore costume masks. I remember huffing and puffing through the neighborhood, breathing through Chinese made mask, exposed to who knows how many BPA'ss and toxins. That smell overwhelmed me as I dashed from house to house, cradling my plastic orange pumpkin in my arms, because its cheap plastic handle had fallen off. The handle always fell off those plastic pumpkins once you threw in one too many Tootsie Pops.

My mother was not crafty. Luckily for her, Martha Stewart hadn't yet hit her prime, so she didn't have the pressure of lifestyle connoisseurs telling her the right and wrong way to do Halloween. But for whatever reason, perhaps she hit her head, one year she thought it would be fun to make me a homemade costume. And for some reason she thought I would be a beautiful peacock. What slightly pudgy, self-conscious, fourth grade girl doesn't want to go to school in a leotard covered with multi-colored feathers? I remember our annual Halloween trip to the drugstore that year. We didn't buy the bagged, Wonder Woman set. We stocked up on fifty feather dusters. And my mother, who was getting her PhD and teaching while parenting my younger brother and me, came home and attached about seven thousand feathers to a leotard. A leotard. So let that picture settle for a moment: A chubby, nine year old in a bright blue leotard and pink tights covered in cheap, brightly-hued, nylon feathers.

I called my mom yesterday to ask how she attached them to me. “I guess I sewed them.” HA! Mom, you don’t sew. You never sewed. You are brilliant and held jobs my whole life, but no, you did not sew the feathers on. So we decided that she had either crazy glued or stapled them on. Either way, the results were not good. The feathers fell off at an alarming rate throughout the day. The nuns were not happy with the mess I was trailing around, and handed me a bag in which to gather my feathers as I molted all over school.So at the end of the day, there I was, a fat kid in a leotard holding a bag of feathers.

The Halloween I remember was good, simple and fun.

But you know what? It was fun. Halloween was always fun. Costumes and candy are hard to screw up. When you are a kid, costumes and candy go a long way. But Martha Stewart, Heidi Klum, and Pinterest beg to differ.

Halloween Now:

  • Costumes: Mom asks the kids what they would like to be the spring before Halloween. This is necessary so she can take the appropriate screen shots of the summer’s blockbuster kid's movies to make sure her costume is authentic. We wouldn't want an Elsa in the wrong cape, now would we? She also starts her Pinterest board. No such thing as too early to get those Halloween Idea Pin Boards ready.

  • Candy: Mom goes to Target the day school starts to make sure she has first dibs on the best candy to give out to the neighborhood kids.

  • Crafts: Mom heads from Target to Michael’s crafts to buy some large baskets, faux leave,s and orange velvet to dress up the baskets she plans to use to give candy out to the neighborhood children.

  • Costume Accessories: In July, when the Chasing Fireflies catalogs arrive, mom sits down after dinner carefully selecting the kids' seventy five dollar “Wishworks” costumes, supplementing any extra materials (wings that actually fly, black roller skates to facilitate the devil with real wings speedy turn along the parade route). Mom also buys a “backup costume,” for photos Halloween night in case the first costume gets soiled in the parade and Halloween social at school.

  • Professional Makeup: With costume planning complete, mom calls the Face Painter, preferably no later than July 26th, to make sure a professional is available to do makeup that complements whatever costume the child has chosen. Two bookings are made. One for the school parade and one for Halloween night.

  • Trick or Treating Sustenance: Mom starts planning her neighborhood potluck. Organic chili from Whole Foods, Corn Bread, Caesar Salad with lettuce grown in the yard, and organic nut-bran to sustain the kids while they trick-or-treat, chaperoned by the appropriate number of adults. Two adults per child seems to be the right ratio these days.

  • Trick or Treat Pail: Mom orders the monogrammed, glow in the dark, Halloween totes from LL Bean or Lands End no later than August 1st when they typically sell out.

  • Halloween Decorating: While the kids are in school mom goes to the local nursery to fill the extra twenty decorated Michael’s baskets with miniature gourds, fairy-tale gourds, and green gourds.

  • Pumpkin Carving: Mom prepares for the pumpkin carve by purchasing the correct carving tools at William-Sonoma. She pre-empties the insides of the pumpkins and prepares pumpkin soup and spiced pumpkin seeds to supplement the organic pot-roast she serves at the Pumpkin Carve.

  • Halloween Parade at School: Mom goes to school to attend the Halloween Social. She spends the three days before baking non-GMO, Paleo friendly, gluten-free, nut-free, organic cookies for the Halloween bake sale. She also brings twenty bags of organic apple slices because there is no candy allowed at the school Halloween Social. Mom stays after the party and change her children out of their costumes, as these costumes impede the childrens' ability to learn.

  • Photography: Mom photographs all children in full face paint with full costume to upload to her Facebook page, Instagram account, Twitter feed, and blog.

  • No Stuffing Your Face: Mom takes all candy bags hostage when the kids finish trick or treating, allowing them one piece a day for the next two months, so as not to go over their daily sugar limit.

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