While other kids donned scary witch and monster costumes on Halloween night, I always chose beauty over beast. I preferred satins and velvets and carrying Tinkerbell's sparkling wand to putting on the green and warty face of a wicked witch.
When I pressed a doorbell and shouted, "Trick or treat," I wanted to hear, "You're so pretty." For me, Oct. 31 was a free pass to take a victory walk down the Miss America ramp.
Then I became the mother of two boys.
My sons' oversized dump trucks and Lego helicopters obscured my own childhood memories of pink tights, Mary Janes, and ballerina tutus. And once Mike and Daniel advanced beyond the age where I could carry them around in Halloween pumpkin costumes, my nights in Cinderella's ball gown were finished. For Mike and Daniel, this holiday was about scaring people.
"I want you to be a witch," said 7-year-old Daniel one year.
"A nice witch?" I asked, imagining myself as Glinda, the Good Witch from Oz.
"No, a scary witch," he said.
"But they are so ugly and creepy," I said.
"Yup," said Daniel. For him and his 9-year-old brother, Mike, Halloween was a time for war paint and fake weaponry.
I found an ad in our local newspaper promoting a Halloween store with scary displays and ghoulish costumes.
"This will be a new experience," I told myself, a phrase I often use as the mother of two boys. Since their arrival, I've improved my pitching arm, overcome my fear of reptiles, and witnessed Rhyno win the wrestling championship title on television.
As soon as I saw a human-size plastic skeleton hanging from the store's flagpole, my step quickened. "This could be a bit scary," I said as we went inside.
Rubber masks of monsters hung from the walls, and shelves were lined with jars of what were called preserved shrunken heads. Eerie high-pitched music played, and fake cobwebs tickled my skin. The store was not American Girl Place Cafe.
"This is so cool," said Mike, as we made our way past costume displays, where both boys seized plastic pirate swords and fangs.
I placed a tall, black witch's hat on my head. "What do you think?"
"Not scary enough," said Daniel.
"Wait," I said, seizing a set of colorful makeup pencils and some black hairspray. Next I added glue-on warts and green face paint to my shopping basket.
On our way out, we passed a small display of tiaras and pink and yellow fairy costumes. I paused and held up a satin and voile dress, admiring its gold trim.
"Mom, can we go?" Mike asked impatiently.
On Halloween night, I pieced together my outfit using a worn black skirt and blouse I found jammed in the back of my closet. "This is going beyond spooky," I thought as I smeared green makeup over my cheeks and forehead, outlined my eyes in red pencil, and drew on crow's-feet in dark-brown eyeliner. I created a scar on my left cheek and glued a wart on the end of my nose.
"If I didn't know you were my mom, I'd be afraid," said Mike.
"Ha, ha, ha," I cackled.
Mike left the room to get dressed and returned with a red-painted face, vampire fangs protruding from his small mouth, and a cape billowing behind him.
"Grraaaaah!" he said. Despite his fangs, he still looked more like Harry Potter than Count Dracula.
I checked on Daniel. He stood before the bathroom mirror slathering his cheeks (as well as the sink, towels, and mirror) with red and black paint.
"You think I'm too scary?" I asked.
"No way. You look cool!" Daniel said.
As we traveled from house to house trick-or-treating, our paint and costumes obscured our identities enough so that when neighbors handed us candy, they acted as if we were strangers. When we arrived at my friend Janet's home, she looked at the three of us, and then coolly began parceling out treats.
"Janet?" I said.
She stared at me. "Andrea? Wow. I didn't recognize you." There was shock and awe in her voice. "You look really awful!"
When we finally returned home, removed our makeup, and put away our costumes, I considered the Halloweens I had spent chasing beauty.
Later, Daniel snuggled up next to me. His face was scrubbed clean, and he was wearing newly laundered pajamas. He was no longer a demon, but a cherub.
Mike stood in the doorway. Black smudges still ringed his eyes.
"I think I like you better as a mom than a witch," said Mike.
"I like you scary," Daniel said.
As for me, I liked how a tube of green paint and a pointy hat broke me out of the beauty rut. Next year I'm going for the fangs, too.