Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween: A Postmortem


A mom at my daughter's pre school was enthusiastically passing out lollipops for Halloween. She pulled me close and gushed, "These lollipops had to be special ordered. They're organic and sweetened with beet juice!"

Another mom who was eavesdropping leaned in conspiratorially, "Well, that's going to be a blog entry."

Have I become that transparent? Because, yes, when I heard sweetened with beet juice I immediately filed it away. It's a brilliant mommy moment. Probably only intensified by the fact that never in a thousand years would I consider special ordering lollies that weren't chalk full of sugar. To wit: Sebastian's fifth birthday was bug-themed, and each child left with a goody bag which included a lollipop that resembled hardened amber with an honest to goodness grasshopper caught inside. Maybe that speaks to my character: grasshopper/heaps of sugar, yes; organic/beet juice, no.

Maxie's school celebrated Halloween by going Trunk or Treat. On Friday the kids came to school dressed in costume and paraded in the school's parking lot where they trick-or-treated from some of the parents' car trunks and hatchbacks. Michael and I decided at the last minute we'd participate. After dropping Sebastian off at school, Michael was going to zip to Target, pick up a bag of discount candy and then hustle on over to Maxie's school. Luckily, I drove Maxie to school early, and saw not only were all the parking places taken, but the parents had decorated their trunks with cobwebs, police tape, witch's cauldrons and Styrofoam headstones, AND they were all in costume. (I often forget that we live in the land of set dressers, makeup artists, prop masters and costume designers, and they take their work very seriously.) I quickly speed dialed Michael and yelled into his ear, "Abort mission! Repeat. Abort! We've once again underachieved and if you bring crappy candy we'll look really, really stupid. For the love of Herman Munster, ABORT!"

I'm just going to have to face facts, I'm not a mom who goes the extra distance. I'm a last minute Christmas/birthday present shopper and often times I regift from the back of our closet. I wish I was better at remembering significant dates, better at picking up meaningful thank you gifts, sending heartfelt cards and making casseroles, but it doesn't seem to be in my DNA.

Now, let's pick apart how I shortchanged Halloween...

I was not only content to buy the jumbo mixed bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Malted Milk Balls and Kit Kats, I felt accomplished in doing so. Our neighbor, however, created gift bags stenciled with the kids' names, and in them were toys, stickers and chocolates from Belgium.

Sebastian's school promoted homemade costumes, but we took the easy way out. Michael pointed the kids towards a rack of clothes and said go. Sebastian chose Wolfman, Maxie chose Ariel, both store bought, both made of flammable acetate. Maxie's best friend also went as Ariel, however her costume was painstakingly homemade; it was diaphanous blue and it draped beautifully with seashells hand stitched across the bodice.

And lastly, our stoop was pathetic. Of our four pumpkins only two were carved. And cheap cobwebs from the 99 Cent Store hung unsuccessfully, looking like cotton turds. The house a couple of blocks down did a twenty-two minute Michael Jackson tribute show on the hour. In front of a huge screen with Michael doing Thriller, professional dancers performed the same moves.

It's hard not to feel small.

Come to think of it, we were so late getting this year's pumpkins, costumes and candy that all of our Halloween paraphernalia was already marked down at a discount. Once again, picking through the dregs. When Bash was two, the only costumes available were an elephant and a Powerpuff Girl. (I chose pachyderm over Powerpuff.) It was a bit small, and when he put it on the trunk stood straight in the air like a misplaced erection. To this day, when my husband wants to illistrate my last minute behavior, he will cite this example.

Here's the thing... I'm not like the mom who is concerned about the contents of the candy she hands out. Nor am I like the mom across the street, who went to the ends of the Earth to fulfill her sixth grade daughter's unusual desire to be Dolly Levi for Halloween. That's right, the matchmaker from the musical Hello Dolly! made famous by Carol Channing on Broadway, La Streisand in the flick. The choice may have been peculiar, but the costume was impeccable. And I'm definitely not like the mom from around the corner who threw together a Halloween party at the last moment. The house was artfully decorated with witches and candles and masks, picante pumpkin soup simmered on the stove, and spooky sound effects played as kids bobbed for apples.

And not to reflect every exemplary mommy moment back onto my own novice mommy skills, but deep down, I do long to go the distance. Maybe it's baby steps. Last year, we didn't have 99 cent cobweb turds. Maybe next year I'll shoot for the candy bowl with the moving skeleton hand.

18 comments:

feefifoto said...

My sister moaned to me one year that, after listening to some other preschool moms boasting on the elaborate steps they'd taken to acknowledge Valentine's Day, the best she'd been able to muster was discovering that Apple Jacks turn the milk pink.

PJ said...

I had a bowl of the same candy you did...except it was snickers, m&ms and starburst...

I'm a social work grad student and we were just studying those moms and dad of which you speak...trust me...your kids will be better off.

Meeko Fabulous said...

You're doing a bang up job and don't you let anyone tell you otherwise. After all, the kids aren't going to remember how much money you spent on Halloween, but the quality of the time you spent together. :)

Sarah said...

god i love your blog. We always have high hopes of being on top of things, but end up in similar positions that you describe here. ABORT!! totally.

April said...

I feel like LA is a little more into Halloween than the rest of the country... no other city I've lived in has made such a big deal of it, and I think you're right about the industry people extending their talents to that holiday... it's a natural fit. Oh, and: I like to acknowledge kids' costumes when they come to the door, and imagine my surprise this year when I incorrectly asked a kid, “Oh, are you Death?" and he replied, “Um, it’s something called Skeletor.” I am a first-generation He-Man watcher... but I had to bite my tongue and let that kid (as well as all of the Star Wars-themed trick-or-treaters) think he was being novel with the latest-greatest. I definitely am glad I live in a neighborhood that doesn't require a live performance on the hour to compete. My (non-Halloween-themed) bowl of candy was enough... and I didn't even carve a pumpkin this year!

Quinn Cummings said...

Your kids are fabulous and gorgeous and happy. And Halloween is just weird, in my opinion; socially-sanctioned begging. Best not to become a master of it.

Not The Rockefellers said...

I bought those same treats...
and I eschew the "Iron Cheffing" of any holiday :)

In fact, I roll my eyes at those folks...

Peace ~ Rene

keke.brown71 said...

All year we tell our kid not to take candy from stranger,then one day out the year we put on a costume on them to get tooth decay from strangers.WOW... LOL LOV YA LOOSEY

anymommy said...

This made me laugh. I am you. You are me. Something. I'm the straight queen of underachieving for children's holidays. A mom once told me (carrying homemade valentine's cupcakes) that she wanted her kids to have an idyllic childhood and going all out for holidays was part of that for her. I just want to get through to their teen years without forgetting a birthday.

Knucklehead said...

"Sweetened with beet juice"?!?!?

Damn, now I'll never completely trust a lollipop again.

Maureen@IslandRoar said...

Beet juice? Seriously? That woman needs to be slapped.
Hey, your stoop had pumpkins (4!) AND spider's webs; clearly you're an overacheiver if you think that's not good enough.
You rock!

MysteryChick said...

If it makes you feel any better my stoop only has one giant plastic light-up pumpkin that never got plugged in and our 99 cent cobwebs are still in the package.

I'm taking under-achieving to a whole new level!

Wendy said...

Eh. Move next door to me! I didn't do DAMMIT this year. Granted, my daughters are 18 and 19 and can do their own Halloween by now, but still...
I didn't put ANYthing on the front porch (I think it's the first year for *that*).
Hubbie and I did, however, go to a H'ween party - he as Master and I as Slave - but STILL.

You'd feel fine as a Mommy who decorates next to me, but the "Holy Rollers" wouldn't put you in a very good mood.

Think about it! I'd love to have your family next door!
=-)

C said...

i am glad to hear that in the land of celebrities you have chosen to not keep up with the shwarzinnagers [mispelled of course]... your kids will remember the love you have for them and not so much all the foofoo that some feel they HAVE to do. its crazy to spend a small fortune on halloween... crazy i say! you are doing just fine, dont worry..

c

This Mama said...

Well thank goodness ... I often feel like I am the only one forgetting birthdays, grabbing last minute (and often half ass) Christmas gifts and never quite getting past the webbed turds when it comes to Halloween decorating. I was so relieved when one of our troop decided to go as a ghost this year as all it would require was some discounted white fabric and a couple of eye holes.

myminivanrocks said...

(Long time reader, first time commenter)

No international chocolates in our neighborhood, but one woman put several pieces of candy in a Ziploc bag with her address label on it. Are we supposed to send thank you notes or something? I didn't get the memo.

The Good Cook said...

Sugar has been made from beets for centuries. The only difference in that super mommy's lolli's was that the red beet color was not bleached out. So there.

So far as being an underachieving mom - join the rest of us. I've been a mom for 34 years and still can't stay on top of things.. and guess what? My kids still all speak to me and love me anyway... I'm not so hot at the grandmother thing either.. I've learned to live with it.

Flamin' Galahs said...

I'm laughing so hard I'm crying. I moved from Australia to Fort Worth TX and am living your life in parallel, only these people have no talents such as your set designers, makeup artists etc. They merely have their confidence in their superiority over me. Which of course I hand them daily on a silver platter with my consistent self-inflicted under-achievement as a wife and mother. Thank you for the reality check. Brilliance.