Though it’s been 15 years, I still remember my youngest son’s first Halloween costume. Because he was too young to walk, the choices were limited to things that could be carried under one arm and then planted on the doorstep. Eventually, I narrowed the options down to the following:
A legless pirate.
When considering the merits of each costume option and which elements should be incorporated into them, parents really have only one consideration:
“How do I get the most candy out of my child?”
To me, the sympathy factor for the legless pirate made it a no-brainer. However, I couldn’t overlook the power of cuteness — a quality that was missing from the legless pirate and meteor concepts. I eventually settled on “The Pumpkin, which I’m sad to say, fell short of my candy-yield expectations for that year.
To make matters worse, that was also the year my oldest daughter became an active member of Young Advocates for Keeping Kandy (YAKK).
I realize for some parents, Halloween is an exciting time that allows them to bond with their child by making their Halloween-costume dream come true. For the rest of us, it means actually making something, and therefore putting our child’s emotional wellbeing at risk by creating a costume that could potentially scar them for life.
After nearly 40 years, I still remember my mother carefully wrapping me in layer after layer of tissue in order to turn me into a frightening replica of The Mummy — and how it took less than five minutes for a light drizzle to turn me into the considerably LESS frightening Soggy Toilet Paper Man.
Things weren’t much better the following year, when I dressed up as a pirate and missed out on all of the good candy after spending 45 minutes with my plastic hook stuck in the car door.
By the time I hit the streets all that was left were Sweet Tarts and half-opened rolls of Rolaids. However, as Count Dracula the following Halloween, I knew it was going to be MY year. Aside from maybe swallowing my own fangs, there wasn’t much that could go wrong.
I remember leaping from the porch and sprinting into the night with my long cape flapping behind me; I remember the sound of my polished shoes clattering across the pavement, and the eerie, greenish tinge of my glow-in-the-dark teeth — particularly as they flew out of my mouth after my cape caught on the neighbor’s fence.
Granted, these situations weren’t entirely about design flaw. In fact, I’m willing to accept the small role my own flawed coordination skills might’ve played in all this.
However, that only adds to the pressure of coming up with a costume that can be safe, functional and, if necessary, used as a stretcher.
Fortunately, my son was still too young to remember when, a year later when, the cardboard robot costume I made him cut off the circulation to his arms, rendering them unresponsive for a full two minutes. This was discovered on our third stop of the night, when he tried to lift up his plastic jack-o-lantern for candy and, instead, fell headfirst through the screen door.
Now that our kids are in their teens, my wife and I no longer have to worry about creating costumes for them that could prove embarrassing or leave an emotional scar. Then again, my wife and I are now free to create our own costumes — which, for our teenagers, could be even more frightening.
Ned Hickson is a nationally syndicated humor columnist with News Media Corporation and the editor of Siuslaw News. He is also the author of Humor at the Speed of Life, a collection of more than a decade of humor columns; and Pearls of Writing Wisdom: From 16 shucking years as a columnist, a writer’s survival guide. Both are available from Port Hole Publishing.