Scary new Halloween

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An old picture of Kym Seabolt's children celebrating a past Halloween

We are deep into the season of autumn and Halloween. At this point, if you cut us we would bleed pumpkin spice. All my mums have bloomed and then died because, as it turns out, I really don’t know how to care for mums.

I want to carve pumpkins, but the Midwestern weather veers between heat wave and crisp and cool. Pumpkins carved too early are at risk of mold or goo. Granted, that is a pretty scary sight. I am all about the feeling of autumn. I tend to skip right past Halloween and go right to the Thanksgiving, however.

The truth is that Halloween loses much of the magic once the kids are grown. Sure, I can dress up the dogs, but the dogs don’t really love it, and I have nowhere to take the dogs once I do. If I’m not going to get oohs, aahs and endless accolades for how creative, cute and cunning we are, then why would I bother?

Not to mention that chocolate is dangerous to dogs. Ergo, no one gives dogs chocolate, no matter how darling their costumes are. Thus, I cannot steal the dogs’ chocolate. So what, exactly, is the point?

Still, I remember well the excitement of going home from school at lunch to change into my Halloween costume and return to school for the class party. I’m sure it was a few rounds of simple games and a lot of Smarties and Tootsie Rolls. Nothing too elaborate.

Later, my own children would enjoy the Halloween Parade through the halls of their elementary school and the little class parties that followed. We mostly played games involving wrapping children in toilet paper as mummies. We danced to the Monster Mash and tripped over the hems of costumes.

Banned

Meanwhile, in Burlington, Vermont, which I would think would be a bastion of autumnal fun what with the foliage and all, Burlington School District officials canceled classroom Halloween celebrations and parade at their local elementary school.

Apparently, an email from a parent led to school staff voting to cancel the Halloween parade. They cite issues of safety and concerns of cultural appropriation, death and gore. People are apparently made uncomfortable by the notion that you change your identity and turn into someone else.

Look, I am all for popular vote, but I find it hard to believe that the complaints of a few can lead to canceling the fun for all. This, however, is apparently what can and does happen.

I am a rules girl. I am 100% behind banning the use of blood and gore in elementary-age costumes. That is why we have rules. Part of school is learning to follow them. Set them, enforce them and the problem is solved. Don’t suck the fun out of everything in the name of it being easier.

It is the idea of being uncomfortable with the notion that you can change your identity that really made me pause. Isn’t that, like, the whole point of Halloween? To pretend, if only for a day? To show off how clever you are, what your interests are or pretend to be a cat, bat or princess?

Of course, someone will find an issue with those. The seemingly harmless costumes of my childhood and college years are all suspect today.

Back before the internet came along to ruin all the fun with opinions, I dressed (among other things long forgotten) as a black cat, a gypsy (now I can never run for public office having put that in writing) and the devil. I never gave a thought to what my costume implied.

Simple

Today our college-age son struggles mightily to choose something that would not have him accused of cultural appropriation this Halloween. No cowboys, Indians or sports mascots, obviously. Nothing political, religious, animal or mineral need apply.

Trying to be helpful, I pointed out that he really enjoyed dressing up as a Buzz Lightyear when he was five. Then again who wants to risk angering actual Astronauts these days? Those guys seem tough. I suggested he dress as the Brawny Paper Towel man (aka a lumberjack, but forestry could trigger someone).

Then it was pointed out that paper towels are also wasteful and kill trees? Perhaps he can dress as a reusable microfiber cloth. Recycle bin? (That’s plastic though. Perhaps the non-BPA kind would do?). I gave up and suggested he go as a low carbon footprint. Who could take issue with that?

Not content with my oh-so-helpful suggestions, he decided on a stick figure. No word if anyone will be aggrieved by that. My money, however, is on yes. Meanwhile, I’m working on the 2020 hit costume. I’m not sure how it’s going to come together but I think going as a Buzzkill will be on-trend.

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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.

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