Happy? Halloween

I love holidays. But I must admit that Halloween is a bit scary. Take it from a mother’s point of view: nine children = nine costumes. Crazy! How creative and artistic can one parent be? Not to mention the dreams of my over-zealous 4th grader. “Let’s all be Harry Potter figures this year!” she plans. “Daddy can be Dumbledore, you can be Professor McGonagall …” (I can’t even fathom adding two more people to the dress-up list.) However, there are a lot of possibilities with a big family.

During one of our more organized Halloweens, my husband and I wore beekeeper hats and nets (we were the bug catchers) and each child dressed as a different bug: a ladybug, a bumblebee, a butterfly. Then there was the year we were all Winnie the Pooh characters. And of course, once we had to be The Von Trapp Family Singers, complete with a guitar and a Do-Re-Mi rendition.

No coordinating this year. There are nine different costumes and nine different themes. Luckily, our past years of Halloween have given us several trunks full of clothes … everything from princesses and pirates to cowboys and clowns. I must admit, the dressing up is fun. But it takes an entire evening of every child trying on every costume before we’re ready. That’s nine times … 49? Imagine the costume-strewn mess on the living room floor when we’re done.
Somehow I mistakenly thought teenagers grew out of Halloween festivities, but in fact, they thrive on them! And fitting a costume to a tall figure is much more complex than fitting a small human.
Eventually, however, everyone has decided upon their Halloween identity, and the choosing is over.
On Halloween Eve (can there be an Eve of an Eve?) nine piles of costumes are laid out neatly in the spare room: robes, dresses, furry hats, scarves, wigs, shoes, crowns and wands. Several heads of hair must be carefully braided and set in overnight curls for the next day.
Despite my stress, the children are jumping with anticipation. “I can’t sleep tonight,” says my 5-year-old as I tuck her in. I smile and hope she doesn’t see the bags under my eyes as I head back downstairs to finish making the cookies.
“Why am I making cookies?” I ask myself. “Don’t they already have candy and caramel and sweets of every other kind? Isn’t Halloween the queen of the sugar game?” And yet, “Can you bring a dozen cookies?” a room mother called to ask. I’m really happy to oblige, but still, adding cookies to the candy mix? It’s a paradox.
And then the big day arrives. First, the pumpkin carving: we smother the dining room table with newspapers and cut into the pumpkins. I watch my children reach inside and pull out seeds, up to their elbows in gooey pulp. Fun? Mmmmm … It’s supposedly a “child-friendly” activity, but what parent in their right mind would allow an 8-year-old to handle the butcher knife? In the end, it’s the parents that carve the faces and finish digging out the pulp.
Then come the parties: treats and games and tricks and more treats. Bobbing for apples… (Who thought of that one?) It’s as sanitary as carving pumpkins. And why do the prizes always involve sweets? Sugar upon sugar. Could the kids be any happier?
Before the big night of trick or treating, we pretend to eat dinner — chili and breadsticks.
Then everyone gears up for a night out. In Vegas, fairy princesses in shimmery gowns weren’t a problem; but Wyoming and Utah princesses must wear long johns underneath, and the cute witch adds snow gloves to her scary hands.
However, despite the sugar, trick-or-treating is fun and people are friendly. We go door to door, showing off costumes, asking for candy. (“Really? Asking for candy?” I can see the wheels turning in my 3-year-old’s head.) No wonder kids love it. We go from house to house to house, as if we were starving beggars.
When it’s too cold and dark to go to another solitary door, we head home and the candy sorting begins, with all of the infamous trading. “I’ll give you five suckers for three candy bars.” I have to watch to make sure the littlest one
s aren’t cheated out of their best treats.
And then, after everyone has had “just one more” piece, we finally wipe up faces and hands and tuck the fairies, wizards, and monsters into bed, their sticky costumes in a heap on the floor, their pumpkin buckets filled to the brim with enough sugar to last us 10 years.
I drop into bed, anticipating the clean up tomorrow. Who invented Halloween? It wasn’t an adult, and definitely not a mother. Pumpkin carving, cookies the same day as candy, and asking strangers for treats — none of it makes sense, except to a child. And children love it. After all, if the children are happy, then the Mama is happy.
OK, I’ll relent. Happy Halloween!

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