Just a few days ago, my 6-year-old and I were discussing what she wants to be for Halloween. We still like to (mostly) make our costumes instead of buying them. Plus, who can afford them today? I kid you not, I saw a little girl’s fairy costume for $89.50 a few days ago. (When is the last time you spent $89.50 on something just for you? Exactly.) So, my daughter wants to be Hello Kitty this year, but not just any Hello Kitty. She wants to be a Hello Bat Kitty — which totally rocks. (I love this about her.)
Anyway, all of this discussion about the upcoming holiday had me thinking about my own 1970s childhood Halloween experience and how different it is for her today.
Today’s Halloween vs. a 1970s Halloween
1. Halloween Costumes.
1970s: The night before Halloween, your tired mom takes you into K-mart, where you look through the picked-over plastic masks with matching costumes. You clutch that $5.99 Cinderella or Spiderman mask and matching costume to your chest on the way home as you slide around on the bench seat without a seatbelt in the back of your parents’ wood-paneled station wagon, while your mom smokes in the front seat. There were no costumes left in your brother’s size, so when your mom gets home, she pulls out an old stained sheet from the musty bottom drawer and cuts two eye holes in it so your brother can go as a ghost. She then puts four frozen salisbury steak TV dinners in the oven (and this time, she remembers to pull back one corner of the aluminum foil on top so the sauce isn’t frozen popsicle gravy).
Today: Three months before Halloween, your mom starts researching politically correct costumes and narrows it down to three choices. A family meeting is held for everyone to vote on their costumes, in order to allow the children to exercise their decision-making skills. Your mom then spends three days on Pinterest planning the components of the non-genetically-modified corn costume. Afterwards, she spends $279 at the local craft store to purchase non-allergenic material and locally made glue, only exchanging the green material twice to get the exact shade for the corn husk. She has you model the finished product with a series of 17 photos so that she can blog about the steps to making it. Then, she posts it to Pinterest and Instagrams the photos.
2. Getting Ready On Halloween Night.
1970s: You bust through the door from school and run straight to your costume, pulling it on over your school clothes. You try the mask on, knowing its tiny breathing hole will in no way facilitate oxygen exchange while you run around like a crazy person during trick-or-treating. You lie to your mom and say you can breathe just fine. The mask eyes never fit perfectly, so vision is limited, but you lie and tell your mom you can see, even though she doesn’t care by then because she is too engrossed in her “stories” on TV to be worried about something as minor as breathing and seeing at night. You run around in your costume in the yard, getting sweaty, until it’s time to go right at the moment it starts getting dark outside.
Today: You come home from school and your mom has a tray of organic vegetables fashioned into non-scary Halloween shapes like smiling pumpkins and happy ghosts with a side of homemade hummus. You have dedicated quiet time in your room reading a book or drawing so that you don’t get over-stimulated. Your mom double-checks the neighborhood association’s newsletter to ensure that she’s right about the designated trick-or-treating hours of 6:37 p.m. to 8:01 p.m. One hour before the designated neighborhood time slot, your mom tells you to pee, wash your face and brush your teeth. You open the package of new organic thermal underwear that perfectly matches your costume. Your mom gently helps you into your costume and carefully paints your face with dye-free, organic tint. Your mom takes two selfies of you and her and posts them on Facebook with a countdown clock. She then positions you into 12 different poses in front of the recycled farm background that she made during her lunch hour earlier that day. She posts those pictures to Instagram.
3. Halloween Night Trick-or-Treating.
1970s: As the streetlights click on, your mom rips two pillowcases off of the pillows and hands one to you and one to your brother to put the candy in. She hands you an old flashlight that weighs about two pounds, but has to shake it first to get it to work. You immediately shove it into the pillowcase as you run down the sidewalk, your mom waving from the front door as smoke from her cigarette encircles her head. You meet up with some friends from the neighborhood and run like maniacs from door to door until your mom yells for you or the scary widow lady tells you it’s time to go home. You drag your full pillowcase of candy along the road and into the house. It’s 11 p.m. Your mom is asleep on the couch with a cigarette burning in the ashtray.
Today: Your mom presents you with an organic tote bag on which she’s stenciled your name, the holiday and the year with dye she’s made from soaking organic fruits and vegetables. She clips four flashing orange lights shaped like small pumpkins onto your costume and bag. At 6:34 p.m., your mom buckles you into the back of the Range Rover. She drives to the first neighbor’s house and waits in front of it until precisely 6:37 p.m., when she gives you permission to unbuckle and go up to the first door. After the first house gives you a sugar-free, organic sucker and a toothbrush, you get back into the Range Rover and your mom drives you next door, where you repeat the process until precisely 8:01 p.m. when your mom drives you home.
4. The Candy.
1970s: You rush into the house and dump the candy from your pillowcase onto the floor. Your mom immediately takes the apple (because it has razor blades in it) and the Pop Rocks (because they make your stomach explode, especially if you mix them with Coke in your mouth). She hands you one of the homemade popcorn balls from your stash so you can eat it while you sort through your candy. Your mom puts the pillowcases back on your pillows and tells you to check the chocolate for pin holes in case someone injected something into it. You and your brother eat candy to your hearts’ content while you watch Halloween. You pass out on the floor in front of the TV with a stomachache, still in your costume, at 1 a.m.
Today: Your mom carefully helps you out of your costume. You go upstairs to take a shower while your mom swabs your candy wrappers for signs of drugs, explosives or other illegal substances. She throws away the products that are not organic and separates the candy into chocolate vs. non-chocolate. She unwraps the 17 toothbrushes you received and puts them into the dishwasher to sterilize them. When you come downstairs, clean and in organic pajamas, you are allowed to pick one piece of candy to enjoy before you go to bed. You brush your teeth with one of the sterilized toothbrushes and you are in bed by 9:17 p.m. You got to stay up late for the special occasion and are excited! Your mom searches Pinterest for healthy ways to use leftover Halloween candy and looks for local dentist offices that will trade candy for another toothbrush.
5. After Halloween.
1970s: You wear that costume every single day until it falls apart. The cracked plastic mask lasts a little longer because your mom keeps replacing that broken rubber string on the back of the mask with a rubber band. Next year, you’re bummed because your plastic Cinderella mask is too cracked to wear. Your mom asks you to hold her cigarette while she tries, one last time, to replace the mask string with a rubber band. It doesn’t work.
Today: After Halloween, your mom carefully rinses your non-GMO corn costume in the organic homemade laundry detergent. She discreetly hangs it to dry in the laundry room so it doesn’t waste electricity in the dryer. After, your mom carefully folds it, places it in a recycled bag made of hand-sewn fibers and donates it to the church for next year’s costume exchange. She then immediately starts researching handmade Christmas gifts on Pinterest to make for the 42 extended family members who will be at your house for the holidays.