This is Not Your Mother’s Trick or Treat
He kept insisting he wanted to be Spiderman for Halloween, so my husband bought him a Spiderman costume — much to my dismay (Not a fan. Yuck. As a mom of boys, I know I’m powerless to stop the madness, but I just didn’t count on the madness starting so soon. Wasn’t it just yesterday he was an adorable, round, squishy pumpkin I wanted to squeeze?) Anyway, for some reason, my son dragged the Buzz costume out the other day when our friends were visiting, and he emerged from the basement resplendent as Buzz!
Everyone thought he looked so neat and as we oohed and ahhed about how great the costume was, lo and behold, he decided he wanted to be Buzz for Halloween — apparently, even 4 year olds play to the crowd! (Take that Spiderman. Apparently, you are “defeatable.” But are you returnable?)
We parents got to talking about how unbelievable some of the costumes are now and what the costumes were like when we were kids. My friend’s husband and I both had vivid memories of heading to places like Bradlees (RIP) and Caldor (ditto), long before there was a Walmart or hip Tarjay to be found. Unlike now, when we parents talk for weeks and weeks before about what our kids are going to be for Halloween, I’m more than certain we made the Bradlees run a week before Halloween at best. I’m sure my mom didn’t fret too much about what my costume would be.
I still remember my excitement opening the costume box — yes, I remember some of them coming in a flimsy box with clear plastic on the top so you could see the mask. (Please see exhibit A at the bottom of the post!) My friends and I laughed about how the masks had tiny slits for the nose and not much better ones for the eyes and you could hear yourself breathing in them. EEEH. They only barely covered the front of your face and were affixed with a thin rubber band that went around the back of your head. (Side note: Who thinks they would totally be banned nowadays and deemed unsafe…you had a bunch of sweaty faced kids stumbling around in the dark who could barely see or breathe….super idea! But that was back in the day when we rode our bikes with no helmets, drank unfiltered water, and swung on metal swingsets that would come out of the ground if we swung too high. We’re just lucky we survived to tell the tales! Badasses!)
The material of the costumes was paper thin, and most of them were sleeveless; you wore the costume over your clothes. My friend insists the pants weren’t real pants — he claims they were only the fronts of pants and they tied behind your legs. I really don’t remember that part but it sounds like the high quality I recall!
The whole shebang was too flimsy to provide any warmth in the dark night of fall, which almost always meant the WORST fate imaginable for a kid — having to wear a coat over your costume! I remember being so livid, pleading with my mother at the front door to go coatless and hearing the same refrain: You don’t want to catch cold! What a bust!
I didn’t wear the costume in a box every year. My mom will admit — she wasn’t the craftiest person, but she was not short on enthusiasm, and I distinctly remember one year (I think it was third grade) making a Rubik’s Cube costume with her out of a cardboard box and construction paper. I was going to be so stylin’! Until…I got dressed to go trick or treating and we realized we had a major design flaw. We forgot to put arm openings in the costume!
How in the hell can you get your candy with no arms? Obviously I got caught up in the moment and forgot about the bottom line!! (I will never forgive myself for taking my eye off the prize! That’s what I got for trying to be all fancy pants and skipping out on Bradlees!) We were just laughing about it last week when she asked what my kids were going as for Halloween. (I don’t know HOW it ever came up…I have not brought it up every Halloween for the past 27 years!) My friend had to carry my trick or treat bag all night while I hung back and awkwardly twisted and yelled, Trick or treat. That’s my bag right there! Heh.
My one big chance to troll the dark streets coatless, and I was an armless Rubik’s cube. I got no respect from the Pac-Mans and Freddy Kruegers on the street!
These kids today will never know how lucky they are. (Oh God, I’m turning into my parents…just listen to me!) We had no fancy costumes from Pottery Barn Kids (some of them are $70 bucks! $70 bucks? $70 bucks!) in breathable materials, with ARMS, and personalized trick or treat buckets! But the part that really kills my inner child? Most of the costumes are so well made and so warm they don’t even need a coat! Kids today will never know the real horror of Halloween — having to wear coats over their costumes!
Nobody decorated the outside of their homes then either (probably because there was no Halloween “industry” that started selling Halloween “decor” in August!), except for a few pumpkins, many of which would get smashed by little hobo thugs later at night as they squirted their dad’s shaving cream on the street. Do kids nowadays even smash pumpkins? They probably can’t because their moms are hovering by the end of the driveway even when they’re in 7th grade! (While textiles and costumes have gotten better, some things have gotten worse. Kids have lost the freedom to run amok. Sad sign of the times and a story for another post.)
But one thing will never change — I know it’s a timeless phenomenon. Kids can be heard throughout any neighborhood spreading the word of Halloween generosity like wildfire!
That house over there is giving out the big candybars!!!
I’m so glad as times change, kids’ priorities never will!