My mom says you always knew when it was Halloween because she'd be at the grocery store getting cardboard boxes. We made our costumes.
I remember one Halloween I was a box of Tide. My sister was an envelope and my other sister was a mailbox. Three sisters stuffed inside three giant boxes – a boxed set. The only place we could all stand together was in our carport. And when trick-or-treating, we had to waddle up to the door one at a time, while the other two stood at the bottom of the stairs, ready to break the fall.
I miss those days. Kids don't make their costumes anymore. And the costumes they want to buy are all based on TV and movies. In the last three years, my son has been Buzz Lightyear, Flash Gordon and Anakin Skywalker. And this year he'll be a ninja. What I wouldn't do to be able to make him a really cool costume.
Like a race car driver, sitting in a big cardboard box, painted like a car. Or Captain Hook, with a clothes hanger for a hand, sailing in a big cardboard box, painted like a ship. But he won't do it. The kid, who for years would only play with the boxes instead of the toys that came in them, won't even consider wearing one for Halloween. I don't get it.
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And I don't understand why kids don't dress like fairy-tale characters. I would be Tinker Bell in a skinny minute. But you never see Peter Pan, or Pinocchio, or any of the Seven Dwarves. I did have one refreshing moment last year, when a neighbor dressed as the Big Bad Wolf with his daughter as Little Red Riding Hood. But she got scared of him, and he had to take off the ears, the paws and the tail. Then he was just a guy in an apron. Bummer.
Adults are more clever. I used to work at CNN, and costume parties were full of topical news figures. One year in the midst of the Clarence Thomas hearings, I actually went as Anita Hill. A little makeup, a nice suit, and a bunch of “ban sexual harassment” fliers and I was good to go.
Couples are practically unbeatable with their ideas. My aunt wore a baggy robe, furry slippers, rollers in her hair and cold cream on her face, and went as her husband's first wife.
And my favorite – the couple that went as “Extreme Makeover.” The husband was the “before” – a woman with frizzy hair, buck teeth and super-sized chest and hips. And his wife was the ‘after' – a perfectly nipped, tucked, veneered, made-over beauty. Classic.
But here I am pulling out Buzz, Flash and Anakin for my youngest as my oldest eyes costume accessories like the Ninja Backpack that includes two plastic swords. Are you sure you don't want to be a box of Tide? No? OK, well, you can be an Ancient Dynasty Ninja, but I'm making the swords out of cardboard.
So there. It's a wash.