Halloween was not always such a big production. Thirty years ago, it came down to a mad scramble once it got dark after dinner on October 31. Suddenly, it would occur to us that we could go out and beg for candy. In typical last-minute fashion, my brother and I would appeal to my mother’s creativity, which no doubt would be lagging by that time of day. She would dig through the hall closet, perhaps find a hand-me-down costume one (or all) of our sisters had worn in years past, and that would be that.
I remember the year I declared I wanted to be a princess. She looked me up and down, thought for a minute, and pulled a blue handmade knitted poncho over my head, cause nothing says “princess” like knitted evening wear. She fashioned a star out of aluminum foil and stuck it on the end of a wooden spoon that she’d yanked out of a kitchen drawer. A couple of bright red spots of blush on my cheeks and voila: princess! For some reason, I was satisfied with this. It was all in the attitude. If the tiara fits, right? My brother and I were each handed a limp pillowcase for candy, got pats on the head, and off we went into the dark neighborhood.
Some years ago, my family was invited to a Halloween event where we were supposed to show up in coordinated costumes. As the Family Organizer, I decided we would go as The Incredibles. It was one of our favorite movies. My husband is even named Bob, like the main character. Our kids fit the ages perfectly. I scoured the internet for deals on costumes. Have you priced Disney costumes lately? They’re no poncho-and-foil-star get ups. But, it was important that we look impressive. We might even win a contest, for crying out loud. I shelled out some significant cash, informed the family what we were going to be, and waited for the night of the party.
Son was ready to go early. He loved the idea of being Dash, the fastest boy in the world. We spiked his hair, donned the gloves and boots, and I sent him out to the front yard to practice sprints. I slipped into Mrs. Incredible easily enough, opting for black boots from my closet instead of the ones that came with the costume. It was a little short in the torso, and a bit choky at the neck, but I was willing to take one for the team. It was getting close to time to go, and our daughter hadn’t appeared yet. She finally came out with a glowering look and her arms folded sulkily. The back of the suit was totally unzipped. “This doesn’t fit. I’m NOT wearing it.” In fairness, I’d ordered the costumes a couple of months early, so it was possible she’d grown some. I tried zipping it up. “It’s choking me!!” she yelled, clawing at the neck. “This is SO lame.” I ordered her to change her attitude and go upstairs to finish getting dressed. She wouldn’t have to zip it up the whole time. She could just do it when we got there and then wear a jacket over it to cover up the open back so she could breathe later. Honestly. Breathing was seriously an issue? These were coordinated costumes, people!
It was almost time to leave. Son (Dash) was waiting in the car. I yelled upstairs for everyone to mobilize. Daughter (Violet) came stomping down, each step an audible Attitude in Motion. She was dressed in jeans, a parka, and tall, fuzzy boots. Seeing my expression, she proclaimed, “I’m just going to be an Eskimo. Everyone ELSE can be the Incredibles.” That’s when I lost it. “Get back upstairs and GET YOUR COSTUME ON! We are GOING as a FAMILY and we are GOING as the Incredibles. IT. WILL. BE. FUN.” She retreated, peeling off the parka as she went.
About that time, in classic introvert form, Bob decided he would rather just stay home and read. “Not this time!” I declared. “We are going as a family.” I must have lapsed into a Halloween-ish raspy growl because he set the book down and headed for the bedroom. The man never does anything in a hurry. “We are going to be LATE.” I noted, which usually only served to make him go slower. After five minutes, I stuck my head in. “Ready? Wait. What is wrong with your suit?” He had pulled it on, but absolutely refused to wear it without something underneath. The suit strained at the seams, as he’d pulled it over his jeans, complete with his overly-stuffed wallet in the back pocket. It bulged and poofed in all the wrong places, looking not so much like the muscles of Mr. Incredible as some odd tumorous affliction of his extremities. “Oh, for heaven’s sake.” I said. No way were the costume’s boots going to fit over his white socks and tennis shoes (he wears a size 12 shoe). “What?” he groused, “It looks fine.”
I rolled my eyes and gritted my teeth, just trying to make it out the door to our fun-filled family-centered event without the words in my head actually making it past my lips. Our teenage daughter tromped out the door, the back of her suit wide open, giving me the big hairy eyeball. Bob folded himself and his bulging muscles into the passenger seat, and we took off for the party. Once we arrived, we put on our masks (matching, of course), and posed for the family picture that showed, for all anyone knew, a creative and happy crew. We’d done it! We were The Incredibles! Our daughter played the part of Violet perfectly, people assuming her sulky, dour face was part of her role and not a result of a lack of oxygen and irritation at her mother for making her wear a too-small costume. She played it so well, she actually won an award for Best Youth Girl Costume. (oh, the irony!)
After the picture, Bob changed in the car. It was pretty easy, since his entire outfit was already on underneath his suit. Violet peeled off her suit and put the jeans and fuzzy boots back on. So that was what was in the bag she’d carried out with her. After about 30 minutes, I took off my boots, which were starting to pinch. Dash was the only one who was still in character by the end of the night.
Next time, I’m heading for the hall closet, and we can be a family of hobos.