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I’ve never been a fan of Halloween. I never liked haunted houses. I plotted for days to get the mounds of candy out of the house. And, worst of all, I can’t sew.

Growing up, Halloween was big in my house. I had a grandmother and a mother who could sew. My Halloween costumes were impressive and one-of-a-kind. I was once a peasant girl complete with bonnet and petticoat. My costume was more authentic than the Ingalls girls’ on “Little House on the Prairie.” The next year, my brother was a cigarette carton and my sister was a pack of matches. Politically incorrect now, but in the 70s, they were amazing. We were Raggedy Ann and Andy, eccentric gypsies and haggard old women. Every costume was homemade. Every costume had accessories and props. We were Halloween pros.

Our house was always decorated fully, including a stuffed mummy/monster that sat in a leather chair in the living room for weeks leading up to Halloween. Our friends would see it routinely. But one year on Halloween night, before trick-or-treating started, my dad dressed in that mummy/monster costume and took its place in the recliner. He didn’t move. My mom put the bowl of candy on his lap, so when the kids in the neighborhood came they had to approach the mummy.

Some kids just grabbed their candy and left. But other kids, usually our friends who my dad knew had seen the mummy as a decoration, got the scare of their life when they reached for the candy, and my dad jumped at them. This was Halloween fun in my house.

When we had families of our own, my sister and brother continued the tradition. They made my parents proud.

When my sister’s sons were young, she planned, purchased and burned the midnight oil to perfect her kids’ costumes. She once found a yellow trench coat (in her 7-year-old son’s size) to complete a fabulous Dick Tracy costume. One year, she dug up one of our old Girl Scouts uniforms, complete with beanie and badge sash, for her pre-teen son. He actually looked like my sister when he put on a wig and became a young Girl Scout, which was a little weird. But my mom stood with pride each year at the school’s Halloween parade, because her grandkids’ costumes were eye-catching, and her daughter was responsible.

My brother’s family is no different. My sister-in-law (who didn’t even grow up in my house) took the madness a step further: she dressed in costume, too. She’s been a witch of varying sorts, all with great hats and extensive makeup. Her teenage daughter was once a ’50s diner waitress and every piece of the costume was real – my mother’s old cat-eye glasses, a cafeteria tray with a milkshake glass glued on, a green waitress pad and a short dress direct from Goodwill.

My family does not fool around on Halloween.

Unless, of course, you look at me. I was always a misfit in this Halloween-crazed family. I did not get the costume gene, so I did the unthinkable: I bought my kids’ costumes. Imagine how disappointed my mother is.

Something went wrong in the creative-costume section of my brain. Maybe it was the years right before we had kids when I would return home from work after the trick-or-treating hours. I didn’t see any costumed kids those years. It was like Halloween had been canceled, and I felt happiness and relief. It kept me from eating 18 Butterfingers in a week, and I didn’t have to stress about a costume. But after having our first baby, I discovered Halloween was still here, and here to stay.

So what could I do? I grabbed the baby and headed to the costume store. That’s what we Halloween failures do.

But now my kids aren’t interested in dressing up for Halloween. And guess what? I’d give anything to spend my Saturday looking for that hard-to-find accessory to complete the perfect costume. I’d even be happy to dress them in the ugliest store-bought costume just to walk the neighborhood with them.

Losing something so precious, even something you thought you hated – that’s really scary.

October 2013
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