Most people think that Halloween is all about kids. Well, that and meeting the deductible on your dental insurance each year. They don’t have a clue. Halloween actually was created hundreds of thousands of years ago as a contest to celebrate the most creative, ingenious and committed mothers.
When the first cave boy went trick-or-treating wearing a mass-manufactured leaf mask, his mother was probably cast out of the tribe. The “real” moms had lovingly hand-stitched animal skin costumes for their wild ones. Faux fur would never do in this costume war. It was the kid who looked (and acted) like a real wooly mammoth who won his proud mama the first Ultimate Mother Award.
My mother would have been a multiple winner. Her motto was “homemade is best made,” and this applied to everything from bread to clothes. As a child, I saw her throw great costumes together with items found around the house or garage. But I longed for a store-bought costume—a thin, vinyl jumpsuit intended to look like a favorite cartoon character.
Honestly, I didn’t even care about the jumpsuit. I wanted the mask. The flimsy plastic one with a narrow piece of elastic to hold it around your head. The statute of limitations on the elastic was exactly 30 minutes and the mask was designed to permanently retain your footprint the first time you accidentally stepped on it.
I didn’t care. I wanted to be Tom the cat, the dim-witted half of the “Tom and Jerry” cartoon duo.
No amount of begging convinced my mother that I needed a cat mask. She sat for hours at the sewing machine, stitching patches on my sister’s scarecrow costume, while I moped around the house.
Then a miracle happened. A few days before Halloween, my exasperated mother ordered me into the station wagon. I found myself at Woolworth’s, gently handing a Tom the cat costume to the cashier. I probably mumbled a prayer of thanks for my baby sister’s bout of colic and my mother’s lack of sleep.
Since then, I have entered the “ultimate mother” contest many times, sewing elaborate creations through the night. My kids begin their search for costume ideas around July. This year, my youngest child is searching websites for costumes to wear.
“I want to buy one,” Abbie says.
I try to contain myself.
We pull out the photos of past Halloweens. Almost every year, the kids appear in my handiwork—Mario, Goofy, Captain Hook and a wide variety of wild animals. There’s even a princess or two.
I think about the other moms who marveled at my darling trick-or-treaters. Abbie knows I can make her a costume like the one on the computer screen. Maybe even better. But as I look at her pleading blue eyes, something pops into my head.
Tom the cat.
I realize that Halloween is not about me. It’s not about winning an imaginary award for most creative, ingenious or committed mother. It’s about kids and candy and (hopefully not) cavities. It’s about having fun.
I’ll settle for replacing the elastic on her mask. That counts, doesn’t it?