Thursday, October 30, 2014

1 Day 'Til Halloween: Ready to suit up

There's an interesting duality about Halloween. The roots of the festival focused on the nearness of the netherworld, meaning both our own mortality and the unsettling mysteries of inhuman things that lurk in the shadows. It's the one celebration we perform mainly at night, in the dark. We don't try to escape the season, the way we look past winter to the rebirth of spring by bringing evergreen trees in from the cold at Christmas. And given all of that, there's an obvious association of Halloween with fear and the gruesome and macabre, so that a marathon of slasher flicks or a visit to a haunted house/cornfield/hayride feels holiday-appropriate. But then, on the flip side, there's the costumes worn for trick-or-treating or masquerade parties, and while it's a given that people will always dress up as vampires and witches (and, perhaps in questionable taste, invocations of real life fears from terrorists to Ebola) there's just as much wish-fulfillment and empowerment and goodness and light in costume choices as there is embodiment of and surrender to the darkness. Whatever the superstitious origins of dressing up as goblins or ghosts on All Hallow's Eve, it's now almost entirely about personal expression. Not that I have a problem with this in any way. As I say, I just find it interesting.

And I should point out that there's not a huge schism in the way people get into the spirit (ha ha) of Halloween, dividing into neat camps. Someone who looks forward all year to attending the local Carnival of Terror may be the kind of person who meticulously plans the perfect zombie costume, but may just as well be the kind of person who prefers to be a superhero or a goofy visual pun. Personally I like the monster costumes for myself, but that's just me, not an opening salvo in any kind of "you're doing it wrong" rant.

I'm not dressing up in any costume this year, no Halloween parties on the social calendar and no group/family theme for trick-or-treating. The latter possibility had the best chance of happening, and if it had happened, it would not have been anywhere near the horror end of the dress-up spectrum. Because obviously at this point in my life, my kids are the drivers of Halloween, and they are not quite (and may never be) as into the gothic and ghastly as much as dear old dad.

You probably could have pieced this together from the last few months of posts (in fact I'm not 100% sure I haven't mentioned it before) but there is going to be a large Lego influence in the Halloween costuming of my offspring tomorrow night. We've been planning it for months, basically for as long as the little guy has been obsessed with The Lego Movie. It occurred to us early on that all five members of the family could dress as characters from the film: the little guy called dibs on Benny the Spaceman, and the little girl wanted to be Princess Unikitty, which left Wyldstyle for my wife and Emmet for the bino. I was happy to take on Vitruvius (and probably would have brought along a sheet and switched over to Ghost Vitruvius about halfway through the night, because, come on, who are we trying to kid here).

The major snag that we encountered was that Lego does not produce officially licensed Halloween costumes which, given the potential gold mine that would be, seems borderline insane. We waited through the summer to see if they would eventually become available (they'd be brand new since there was no such thing as The Lego Movie last Halloween) but they never materialized. Still, with the little guy's heart set on the idea, that meant we'd have to somehow kitbash together homemade versions, and faced with the sheer amount of effort anticipated, the possibility of mom and dad dressing up with the kids went right out the window.

Then, as Halloween costumes for every other marketable property in the world started appearing (right around back-to-school), my wife was shopping with our daughter and they saw an Elsa costume and my wife asked the little girl if she'd like to be her for Halloween, and the little girl enthusiastically latched on to the idea. Aside from the fact that Princess Unikitty would be extremely hard to recreate, and a storebought Elsa costume is infinitely easier to acquire, it did seem only fair to let the little girl decide for herself and not constantly be steamrolled by her older brother's grandiose schemes. (Last year the little guy's heart's desire was to be Buzz Lightyear for Halloween, and he got his way, along with his sister as Jessie and baby bro as Mr. Potato Head. If he continued to get his way I'm sure this trend could have continued indefinitely.)

So that's the plan: basically our three kids are dressing as characters from the two highest-grossing children's movies in recent memory. The bino has a toddler-sized orange safety vest and construction hat, whereas the little guy has blue sneakers and blue gloves, a blue body suit that was part of a Toy Story alien costume (the green, three-eyed head has already become just another toy for everyday amusement), and a bootleg Benny mask from Etsy. Last night my wife and I stayed up late, her sorting Lego bricks (not for Halloween per se, just because it needed doing) and me working on the last few handmade elements of the boys' costumes. I made a blue posterboard torso front and back, glued a Lego Space symbol I had downloaded and printed to the front and a couple rolled pieces of posterboard as oxygen tanks to the back. I also wrapped a shoebox in red paper to make a Piece of Resistance that we will try to attach to the bino's safety vest, although I really don't know how long he's going to stay in costume. Hopefully long enough for a few pictures, at least.

Preparations have been made and now all there is to do is wait for the big night, and hope that the weather and the children's relative health all cooperate!

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