Now that he’s two, my son understands holidays. And so far, none has been more exciting than Halloween. We started talking about costumes in mid-September, and he suggested costume ideas ranging from astronaut to “glass door” (don’t even ask me where he got that from), but “race car driver” seemed to keep reappearing, so I quietly ordered a costume online and waited.
My first attempt to give it to him was a massive failure. He was teetering on the edge of a tantrum and I thought giving him the costume would be the perfect way to redirect him. Instead he took one look and screamed “That is not a costume! Take it away!” Who are you, child? Stung, I spirited the costume back to the closet and waited.
The next evening found him feeling a bit more chipper, so instead of saying I was showing him a costume, I said I had a surprise for him. This time, his reaction was even better than I’d hoped. He took one look at the photo of a trick-or-treating Lightning McQueen on the package and clasped his hands to his chest in quiet delight, his face bright with joy. “That’s my costume! And it has a hat! Can we look at it, Mommy?” he asked.
I eased the red polyester jumpsuit out of its clear plastic package, the material shining with deliciously cheap luster. Its sheen summoned me back to my childhood, when Halloween night would find me peering past polyester vampire capes and crooked witches’ hats as jostling for the candy bowl ahead of me, the smell of face paint and dried leaves tickling my nose as I impatiently waited my turn to say “trick or treat.”
“I want to wear the hat!” He clapped his hands again as I placed it on his head. “This is my costume! This is MY COSTUME!”
I watched his happiness bloom, his eyes dancing with the knowledge that the thing we’d been reading about in his scratch-and-sniff storybooks would finally be happening. He was going to say “trick or treat.” He was going to Halloween parties with spooky eyeball cookies. He would see his friends all dressed up. And best of all, he was going to play in the world’s biggest game of pretend.
At first, the hat was enough. He experimented with different ways to wear it, turning the brim 360 degrees until he settled on the original, forward-facing position. Then he asked to go outside and ride his bike. He raced around our patio, his chubby little legs a blur a he pedaled furiously on his tricycle. He made no sounds, but I could tell he was imagining that his costume was real.
It wasn’t until just before bed that he asked to wear the full getup…and sleep in it. He stood patiently as I hemmed the pant legs with safety pins and adjusted the blue vinyl belt with double stick tape. I mentally congratulated myself for buying it a size too big; he’ll be wearing and playing in this costume for a long time to come.
When I was finally finished, he stepped in front of the full-length mirror in my closet, raised his hands above his head and started jumping up and down, posing like Will Ferrell in an SNL skit as he watched his reflection. Inside my chest, my heart jumped with him, swelling with our shared excitement.
This is why I became a mom.