Halloween, the adorable holiday.
I leave the light on and rush toeach ring of the doorbell.
Dispensing candy to masked callers and guessing who is in which clever costume makes Oct. 31 a joy.
But Halloween offers the non-nimble needlers among us a dilemma. We can't cook our way around this holiday, outdo ourselves decking the halls with pumpkins or tossing gifts at its celebrants.
This holiday requires more planning than all others. Before sending our own tiny trick-or-treaters out to the neighborhood haunts, mothers must pull costume ideas from the wells of their creativity.
For years, when I had to costume in triplicate, I wrung my clumsy fingers in feelings of maternal inadequacy, a Halloween byproduct for the unskilled.
The child outfitted in his brother's rec soccer uniform pales woefully compared with his peers, dressed adorably or adeptly. He points enviously to a little mermaid, complete with a tail of shimmering green scales, or a friend dressed comically as a tube of toothpaste, his cap painstakingly pleated in tiny folds, or Batman, bedecked in an exact replica of the comic hero, with little ears peaking perfectly atop his black mask.
In later years, he remembers how his mother just handed him shin guards and a black-and-white ball, before sending him out into the night with a perfect Princess Leia and her wonderful Wookie.
Without inspiration and crafty talent, costume block never ends. Ghosts of Halloweens past occasionally come to the rescue.
In our family, a one-size-fits-all clown costume circulates among the youngest cousins.
Stitched some30 years ago by a benevolent godmother, it serves each toddler well.About the age of 5, though, the child rebels.
"I am not going to be a clown anymore!" he says adamantly. "I want to be Superman."
This kid has done his character study well. While mom assures him, "it's a cape," he won't accept a red towel pinned across his shoulders. He wants the real thing, right down to the ruby red boots.
Nor will a sheet with eyeholes thrown over his head create his illusion of aghost. Ghostbusters ended all that simplicity. Now, phosphorescent colors and homemade slime make up the essential holiday ensemble.
My mother once dressed my brother in a white towel and a headed-for-the-rag-bag sheathe. She wrapped the towel around his head, pinned a dangling purple bauble, mid-towel, and called her 8-year-old sheik for a day.
As his bejeweled turban wobbled precariously from one side of his head to the other, brother never quite grasped his true identity, telling the many inquiring neighbors he was a sheet.
He reallycleaned up, treat-wise. People laughed so hard, they gave him seconds and thirds. We all wanted to be sheets after that.
While other mothers painstakingly attach sequins to princess costumes or lovingly stitch authentic insignia onto shirts, I turn the other sleeve, hoping I can ignore their costume queries long enough for them to reach the age of creativity.
"Go up to the attic, scour the stacks, you'llfind something" is my first line of advice.
This works for mothers who are savers. Some kids have been able to find, intact, mom's complete high school uniform, including saddle shoes, or dad's waiter's outfit donned during the lean years. However, most searchers return from their hunt outfitless.
"There's nothing up there, I looked andlooked," they reply.
Actually, there's a plethora of possibilities, for the creators of haute Halloween couture -- especially for momswho started designing last season.
I have suffered much maternal angst at the Halloween parades of children bedecked in holiday chic, knowing that I had inflicted untold suffering on my undercostumed children. I truly admire those who take to their sewing machines to fashion a fairy from a bridesmaid gown or whip up a witch out of bolts ofblack.
Some among us just don't have what it takes. We must resort to alternative sources for costume magic.
Be tolerant. Remember,hours of labor or moments of anxiety precede that little knock on your door. Treat all those children the same -- even the ones whose costumes came straight out of the linen closet.