I take Halloween very seriously. For example, I can remember what I was for Halloween 1978. That year is particularly memorable because I was out of town and had to miss my class party, including the cupcake-decorating contest, which I failed to win, even though my mom took in my entry. It was a spider with horrifying licorice legs. A volcano cupcake won, which I guess makes sense when you live in a part of the country with active volcanoes.
But getting back to costumes. I was a scarecrow that year. I was Raggedy Ann the year before that. I have also been a witch, a goateed professor, a raccoon, a banana, a nun, an old man, and Velma from Scooby Doo, usually wearing costumes made by one or both of my parents.
So, it was only natural for me to plan Lucy’s costume for last Halloween while I was still pregnant with her. When Halloween did finally come around, I dressed her up as a bumblebee and went trick-or-treating at my old office. It was the first time most of my colleagues saw her, and unfortunately, the bee suit was a little warm for two-month-old Lucy. It made her cry, so we had to tell everyone she was an Africanized bee, and that screaming sound was part of the look.
This year, Lucy has working legs, which really opens up the costume possibilities beyond things shaped like larva. Our first idea was that we’d get a tiny stuffed parrot, sew it to Lucy’s shoulder, and send her out as a pirate. But, try as we might, we couldn’t get her to say “Arrrrr."
Next, we thought, she could be Frankenstein. When Lucy was a brand-new walker, she clomped around just like him, especially when she was wearing the heavy boots we bought her at Target because they looked so hilarious.
So, a few weeks ago, I went to the local costume store in search of face paint and neck bolts to complete the look. I found the face paint, but learned they were all out of neck bolts and had no plans to reorder. Is Frankenstein so out of vogue and the demand for neck bolts so paltry that the likes of Lucy and me were out of luck?
The answer, I’m afraid, is yes.
I considered making some out of painted corks and washers, and then I reminded myself that I’m not that Martha, even though I do regularly get mail asking me for soup recipes. Do I look like a WASPy billionaire sheet maven? Right. I didn’t think so, although that would make a good Halloween costume at some point. “Place the candy in my hand-made Irish linen bag just so. There. That is perfect. And it’s … a Good Thing.”
Neck bolt-less, I went home with some Frankenstein face paint, which I couldn’t resist putting on Lucy right away. She loved the look of her new, green face. To show her appreciation, she laid her head on my shoulder and nuzzled me tenderly. In short order, Lucy’s face was no longer green, but my white T-shirt had a camouflage pattern on it.
For that reason, and because I have acquired enough wisdom in this year of parenting to know that I have no business making choking-hazard neck bolts, I decided she would have to be something else.
Preferably something that didn’t cost any more money, because Adam and I recently figured out that we’re broke, due in no small part to unwise purchases such as clompy baby boots from Target.
Fortunately, Lucy has a rainbow-striped onesie and tights, so the logical thing to do was dress her up as a rainbow. I planned to make a little pot of gold and attach it to her end. But first, I wanted to see what she’d look like in the onesie and tights.
I dressed her up, and slid some little ruffly panties on to complete the look. And then it hit me. Her rainbow onesie and tights aren’t really rainbow-striped. They’re just colorful. For a moment, I thought Halloween was ruined.
But it turned out that Lucy was delighted with her outfit. She liked it even more when I tied a cape made out of a cloth diaper around her neck. And so was born Lucy’s costume. She’s going to be Captain Underpants – a character I later learned has a whole comic book series to his name.
There’s not a whole lot of dignity wearing your underwear on the outside. But Halloween isn’t about dignity, after all.
It’s about something else, entirely. There’s a reason Halloween was always such a big deal for my family when I was growing up, and there’s a reason I always had an elaborate, homemade costume to wear.This is because Halloween is about the sacred relationship of kids and candy. Or, more specifically, using your kids to get you candy. My parents did it, and now – FINALLY – I get to, as well.