Sixteen days before Halloween, I decide to hit the party store with my boys so they can pick out their costumes; somewhat of a reward, if you will, for getting their flu shots. While this once used to be one of my favorite experiences, it has since become a rather arduous task, fraught with changed minds, lingering doubts and endless questioning. But this year things are certain to be different: 10-year-old Raf already knows exactly what he wants to be. There will be no wondering, no wavering, no second guessing. He knows going into it: he’s going to get a Morphsuit. I’ve come to learn that a Morphsuit is a skin-tight spandex bodysuit that literally covers a person from head to toe; like a catsuit, or full-length leotard. While I don’t quite understand the appeal, and can’t really grasp why he’d want to scurry around trick-or-treating in a tightly-clad outfit like someone auditioning for the Mouse King in the Nutcracker, I’m glad he knows what he wants.
We stand at the wall of photos, looking at Morphsuit availability. He picks Purple, tries it on and manages to squeeze into it. Yep, that’s what he wants. But not Purple. Maybe Green. Or maybe the Alien one. Or maybe Ninja. Or the Slenderman one.
Here we go.
Back to familiar territory.
Or the Tie-Dye one. Or the Black one. Or the Camo one…
Meanwhile, little brother looks over his choices. Dinosaur. Nope. Angry Bird. Uh-uh. Santa. Not in his size. He settles on a classic—Superman—and is happy as a clam.
We continue to stare at the wall of Morphsuits.
He finally decides on the Ninja, 100%.
It’s been roughly an hour.
I clutch my online coupon and make my way to the checkout stand.
Relief floods me. I’m done. For this year.
Nine days later, we head to Mathquerade at his elementary school, the only school-wide event where they can wear costumes. He and his buddies decide they’re going to dress up.
My 10-year-old again squeezes into the Ninja Morphsuit and we pick up his friend, a thrift store Zombie Punk, on the way.
We wait in line with my mother-in-law, who, thankfully, has agreed to come along. I can see it’s already a packed house as we wait. Suddenly, two more of his friends show up in Alien Morphsuits. I am immediately horror-stricken: I realize my Raf has his Morphsuit on backwards. First, I try to play it off as I look at his smushed-up nose and eyes shoved into the costume, partially covered with the Velcro closure that should be at the back of his head.
“Well, with it on this way, you can see all the Math games and guesstimation things you need to do,” I lamely offer.
No dice. His friends point out that he’s got it on backwards.
“Let’s go,” I say to him, and we sneak off, through the vacant office, down the hallway, to the boys bathroom.
“We’ll put it on the right way in here.”
I get down on my hands and knees, grossed out by the smell of urine. We start to peel off the costume.
“Hurry, hurry….” he urges, which I find nearly impossible, like trying to remove a wet bathing suit.
We finally get it off and turned around.
We start inching it upwards.
Over toes, over fingers.
I go to his back and start to zip it up, where things go from bad to worse.
Disastrous, in fact.
“Uh-oh,” I utter.
The zipper breaks, exposing his broad, white back.
“You broke my costume? You broke it……”
I flashback to my own second-grade Halloween experience. My mom has skillfully handmade an elaborate black cat costume. She shows up at school for the playground parade, but it’s a rainy day and, in my mind, something has gone utterly wrong, I think something to do with the feet (but to this day, I’m not sure what.) Whatever it is, I am mad at her. Livid, really.
It’s come back, I think, it’s finally come back…..
“I’ll go get Grandma,” I say.
After all, Grandmas can work miracles. Especially with zippers.
We stand looking at each other in the smelly bathroom. His face is red from crying. He wants to go home.
It crosses my mind that I will someday find humor in this, but right now, I want to bawl.
He says again that he wants to leave. We can’t, I explain. We’re going to have fun with the Zombie Punk.
Finally, after much resistance, he slips on my black sweater, which hangs past his knees, and goes out to find his friends. Soon they are guessing the weights of pumpkins, running around on the spooky, fog-covered playground and savoring soda and Skittles.
At the end of the night, the Zombie Punk cheerfully carries out the three-pound pumpkin, which he’s correctly guessed the weight of.
“I’ve never won anything,” he appreciatively, exuberantly exclaims, “except those dumb carnival games.”
I am grateful for his enthusiasm.
As we climb into the car, the Zombie Punk and my Ninja Morphguy compare the cost and lifespan of the Goodwill costume versus the party-store costume.
“Total rip-off,” they both conclude about the Morphsuit and they laugh and laugh.
The sound is music to my ears.
Not a bad way to end a Thursday night with a Zombie Punk, two Alien Morph Guys, Superman, Grandma and a sweater-clad boy in a Ninja Morphsuit.