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Complicated Halloween costumes a frightful thought

On Halloween night, when Roy was 2 years old, with study he learned to say “Tick or fweet!” We went to the home of Pam, who had set out a strobe light, a fog machine, fat spiders and vast webs. Holding a flashlight beneath her painted white face, she said in a deep, slow voice, “Hello, children.”

Roy looked at her with huge eyes and said, “I’n not scared.”

He backed away to the edge of the porch, and said again: “I’n not scared.”



He repeated it 35 times throughout the night, unbidden, at doorsteps.

It worked. By the end of the night, he wasn’t scared.



I’ve always loved Halloween. At 4 years of age, I was a ham sandwich, in a cardboard box from which protruded a pink towel (ham) and a green towel (lettuce). At seven, with my pixie haircut, a blazer and a toy guitar, I was a Beatle. At 10, I was, in a leotard, a set of old net curtains, and beads, a harem girl, but my mother ruined the effect by making me wear my ski jacket on top. One year, using paint and cardboard, I was a playing card: the three of spades.

We always wore costumes that we had around the house, or assembled with scraps and improvisations. It is another of those traditions my sons don’t particularly like.

“Why can’t we go to the store and buy our costumes like other people?”

They’ve worn some great costumes, though, especially certain pass-ons. At three, Teddy was absolutely unsmiling in a beautiful lion suit sewn by my friend Julie’s mother-in-law. When the yarn mane blew across his face and stuck to the first piece of candy he tried to eat, he marched inside and stripped.

“Teddy! Don’t you want to go trick or treat?”

He pulled on his jacket firmly. “Yes,” he said. “In my coat.”

When Roy was 4, he was a knight, with a borrowed helmet, a cape we once bought, and a cardboard sword we’d made for a school play.

Teddy, 7, was Daniel Boone, with a coonskin hat from somewhere and a coarse brown jacket my sister gave me from Peru.

That evening, we stopped at a house where two masked youths sat in the driveway with a plate of candy. But as we walked up, the teenagers silent and still in their black clothes and scary masks, Roy whimpered and suddenly wailed.

One boy pulled off his mask. “Dude, take off your mask!” he said to the other, swatting him in the head. The friend doffed it, but Roy had to be carried away sobbing. As we left, Roy said, “When I’m 16, I’m coming back here and scaring them.”

Yet in subsequent days, Roy delighted in having me tell the whole story, especially the “Dude, take off your mask!” part.

Two years ago, my nephew, Sam, then two, visited on Halloween in a splendid elephant costume with tusks and trunk atop a hood.

That night we stopped at a small gathering. Eventually, carrying a tiring Sam, I went downstairs to give the kids a five-minute warning.

I’d just set Sam down when Teddy’s friend Thorne yelled.

The family’s dog, a yellow lab barely older than a pup, had Sam’s elephant trunk in his mouth and was dragging Sam away across the basement floor. Sam lay on his back, his face blank and red, his arms half sticking out from the pull of the fabric under them.

I snatched him up. I was partly horrified, of course ” “Dingo took my baby!” ” but laughing hysterically. The dog had thought the hood was a toy.

This year Roy, 9, wants to be Darth Sidious. We have the cape, and I can paint on his scars. He has a toy light saber and a hood he thinks will work.

Teddy, 12, wants to be Elvis.

That sounded complicated. “You want an Elvis costume?!”

He said airily, “We can make one.”

Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at aosius@hotmail.com.


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