If I were to pin-point when the enchantment of Halloween evaporated for me, I would readily be drawn to the year my sister was born, the year I went Trick-or-Treating as Strawberry Shortcake, the year of my first store-bought costume--the year I was seven.
Prior to that year, my mom elicited the aide of her Singer sewing machine to stitch for me traditional princess, witch, and clown costumes. But none of these impressed me as much as the authentic Native American Indian attire she crafted with precision and care for both me and my younger brother. Suede pieces latticed together with leather rope. Beaded detailing on the smock of my dress and on the front plate of Travis's shirt. My long, blond braids entwined with leather and feathers; his fine hair set away from his face with a simple, yet authentically inspired, headdress. If not for the betrayal of our Irish, freckled complexions, we looked authentic. Our mom's love was rewarded a thousand-fold with the compliments from strangers as we wandered the streets in search of treats (being far too scared of tricks).
Store-bought costumes (as manufactured in the early 80s) just didn't cut it. The plastic, front only masks, held on by a length of elastic that, in a feat of gravity would twist itself around your hair like a python on a man, ripping it out in clods, were a flimsy rendering of the character's features. The costumes themselves choked at the neck, rose in the crotch, and anticipated a flood at the ankle. Instead of embodying believable characters, the costumes bred laughter, and, as a result, my discontent. And thus, I abandoned Halloween as a magical time of year (and sought that magic in literature and movies--and, much further down the line, in parenting--instead).
As a mom, I understand the mystery and wonder that Halloween holds for children. I enter each witching season intent on building for Braden an experience similar to the ones my mom crafted for me, to brainstorm homemade costumes for him to wear Trick-or-Treating. For his first official Halloween, he was set to go as Winnie the Pooh, a hand-me-down plush costume (not homemade), but when he saw the factory manufactured bee costume I had donned, he 'buzzed' after me until I let him wear it. That year started an eight-year tradition of purchasing Halloween costumes for Braden instead of making them, a tradition much less festive, yet much easier, than concocting something original on my own.
The closest I came to original costuming was the year he went as a ghost, but you don't really have to be crafty or innovative to cut up a sheet. Sadly, before that night was over, the ghost costume had to be hung like a toga. It seems five year old boys don't glide as gracefully as Casper, and after the fifth or sixth face-plant, a college frat boy seemed safer than a friendly ghost.
In defense of store bought costumes, the frightening skeleton he paraded as when he was five and ominous zombie skateboard punk he embodied last year were both much cooler than anything I could have imagined; yet I wonder if, as his mother, I should demand more from myself for All Hallows Eve.
And these are my mommy-fueled fears: Does Braden enjoy the rituals of childhood in a manner as memorable as I had the fortune to experience as a girl? Should I gauge his experiences by my own past or by a barometer we set for ourselves? Do I allow the ghost of Halloweens past to haunt the present or do I exercise them while Braden still shivers at things that go bump in the night?