Pumpkins, goblins lurking just around the corner - Valerie Baldowski

Once again, the annual holiday season is about to kick off, starting with the yearly Halloween extravaganza. As a kid, I can remember the excitement I felt early on Halloween day. I would be so wound up, my mother was barely able to get me to choke down a few bites of dinner before I hopped into my costume.

Unlike other little girls, I was a tomboy, and didn't want to wear any wimpy Halloween costumes, like Cinderella, Snow White or fairy princesses. For me, it had to be something like Frankenstein, a witch, a ghost, a vampire, or some kind of monster.

I would take my little jack-o-lantern bucket and make the rounds, always putting considerable effort into collecting as much edible loot as I could. An older brother was assigned Halloween duty, which meant he was to tag along after his little sister, a safe distance back, so as not to be a nuisance, and carry a brown paper bag, or something to dump the overflow of candy into. A one-bucket night was decent, but on a good night, when most grown-ups were home and answered the doorbell, a two-bucket night was stupendously successful.

Fast forward to now. As a parent, I can see some of the same patterns being repeated. I guess it's true -- what we put our parents through, eventually gets thrown back at us as adults. My son has to have just the right costume for Halloween, and nothing else will do. That's fine, only after Halloween, it seems the costume becomes a permanent addition to his wardrobe. We still have last year's Power Ranger costume hanging in the closet. For a while, he would try to squeeze into it long after Halloween, just to wear it like a favorite outfit. By comparison, when I was his age, the appeal of a costume vanished the day after Halloween.

His Ninja costume from two Halloweens ago stayed around and haunted us for so long, it eventually got put in storage in the attic. When I try to get rid of previous costumes long since outgrown, he panics, informing me he still wants to wear it. Why he has become so attached to it is beyond me. Lord knows, kids grow so fast they wear a costume once, then outgrow it, and can't fit into it anymore.

So once again, we'll make the annual trek to our favorite store, the one with low, low prices advertised by those well-known, yellow, smiley faces, to look for a great value on this year's Halloween costume.

Sometimes, the costumes are so imaginative, I wish we could hang onto them a little longer. The best kids' Halloween costume we ever had was one someone gave to us, a Cookie Monster costume. But that seems long ago and far away. And of course, kids have their own idea of appropriate Halloween styles.

So taking into consideration that kids call the shots every Oct. 31, the costume manufacturers, no doubt, realize they've got parents over a barrel, and they have, so to speak, a captive audience when it comes to shelling out some bucks every year.

Some things changed over the years, but others have remained the same. The first year I took my son trick-or-treating, he was so young, he didn't understand the concept. But kids catch on quickly, especially when there's candy involved, and after the second or third house, he realized he had a good thing going when he saw what was accumulating in his bucket.

Nowadays, we don't patrol the streets anymore, but we do the trunk-or-treat bit in our church parking lot. To me, seeing all the kids in their Halloween costumes is a treat in itself.

Valerie Baldowski covers government and politics for the Henry Daily Herald. She can be reached via e-mail at vbaldowski@henryherald.com.