The Year My Parents Tried To Ruin Halloween


Welcome to Halloween week here at The Dose of Reality. We are bringing you the best (hopefully!) of our Halloween posts through the years here this week, so grab your candy corn and enjoy! Here we go…

Let’s just say that 1984 was an especially cruel year for me. My parents took any shred of self-esteem I had developed and pretty much decided to shred it in one fell swoop. They, of course, did not see this at all. In fact, their ego crushing move actually came to me in the form of a gift!

My father recently decided to clean out his attic, an area that has the same square footage as a large apartment but looked for the last twelve years like the inside of a Goodwill drop-off center that has never been sorted. He was lucky no one (me) called the producers of Hoarders.


But last month he announced that it was time to do something about it and the attic now looks much different thanks to his hard work and persistence. During the process of the big clean, my father made a pile in the back corner for me of childhood things (i.e., ‘stuff’) that I could go through at ‘my leisure’; ‘my leisure’ meaning immediately or yesterday since when my dad is in get-something-done-mode, the only timetable that’s comfortable is the one marked ‘Right Now’.

So last week I spent about an hour in there going through a total of only two boxes, simply because it was such a trip down memory lane that I had to stop and reminisce with every rediscovered symbol of my past. The items I found ranged from amusing and slightly humiliating, like my old letters (of which there were, sadly, many) where I artfully pretended I was Kirk Cameron‘s wife; to bittersweet and nostalgic, like finding a never-worn nightgown from my grandmother to my mother with a lovely card wishing her a safe, happy delivery of her first baby.

Nothing, however, could have prepared me for finding two old Halloween costumes gifted to my sister and me by our parents circa 1984.

Now, back in the day, Halloween costumes were generally procured from one of two places – the local drugstore or your parents’ linen closet. I fondly remember standing in my neighborhood Walgreen’s choosing among the plastic wrapped packages, trying to decide which character I would become that year. I had to mostly wish that the body of the costume properly showcased who I was trying to be, because the string holding the plastic mask on my face pretty much broke by the third house I hit up for candy.

Or if it was the linen closet I raided, well, we all know how easily a good old-fashioned pillow case could become a scary ghost with just a pair of scissors. So minus having to take all of my candy to the local hospital to have it x-rayed for hidden needles, Halloween really was a simpler time in 1984. No Chasing Fireflies or Pottery Barn Kids with their elaborate costumes that cost more than your average car payment.

So imagine the thrill that my sister and I experienced when our parents returned from a business trip to New York City with Halloween costumes that they had hand-picked for us from FAO Schwarz®. These were costumes made from actual material that slipped over our heads and truly looked like what they were supposed to be. It was like winning the Halloween lottery … at least BEFORE I realized what the costume was that they so lovingly chose JUST for me.

Keep in mind that in 1984 I was eight years old, an age where Halloween costumes are really beginning to matter, both socially and to a child’s self-esteem, and I had pretty high expectations for an FAO Schwarz® treat.

My parents revealed my sister’s costume first, which was a very scary, very lifelike, but most importantly, VERY COOL witch costume.

Abby playing the part of my sister in the reenactment of 1984

Just what every average four-year-old needs, right? After handing it over to her and watching her face light up in delight, they turned to me and pulled mine out of the bag. My first reaction was that there must have been a mix-up at the store. I half-expected my mother to begin shrieking about how the ridiculous sales lady put the wrong item in their bag, because surely, SURELY, what had just been revealed to me must have been a mistake, right? I mean, they wouldn’t actually *choose* this costume for their daughter, as in on purpose.But, no, there was no wringing of the hands or frantic dialing of the phone, instead it was all smiles as they handed me my special costume.

It was…

Wait for it…


Yes, you read that right, no need to adjust your screen. My parents looked at all the available costumes in the largest, fanciest toy store in the world (at least back then) and thought to themselves, “I know what Ashley would look great in! I know what she would just love to be! She would love to be an elephant!”

Because what every little girl dreams of is dressing up like an animal that on its best day weighs as much as a barge. I suppose had they chosen a cow instead, I would have been slightly more insulted but I am not sure by how much. And of course, because this costume came all the way from New York City and was so expensive (I know this because my mother told me – she loved nothing more than to qualify a gift with its high value), I had to pretend as though this gifted costume was great. I had to act as if I would love walking down the street next to my little sister dressed up as the coolest witch ever to come to town while I trudged along beside her as a pachyderm, secretly hoping no one would recognize me through my eye holes.

I don’t honestly remember much from the trick-or-treating that year, but I feel fairly confident that more than one person at more than one house made a joke about how I must want peanuts more than candy.

Like any good mother would, I snatched up those Halloween costumes from my father’s attic and immediately brought them home for my girls to try on.

Let’s just say that seeing the photo evidence some 25 years later did nothing to lessen the painful memory of that poor little girl whose parents apparently saw her as the world’s largest land animal.

The eyes really say it all, don’t they?


The Year My Parents Tried To Ruin Halloween — 39 Comments

  1. Ugh! I hated the burden of good manners and having to pretend I loved gifts as a kid! I know the feeling of your elephant costume!

    My mom once bought me an entire sea-green room makeover (maybe I was in about fourth grade) without checking with me first re: my favorite color, and I didn’t like sea green!!! New comfortor , pillowcases and throw pillows, even a coveted beanbag chair, but all in sea green!!!! I had to get it all set up and squeal about it (and I really was grateful for new things and it must have cost a fortune) but sea green???

    Hahaha I just mom never reads this 😉

  2. I read this one before but it’s even better the second time around!!! Your eyes!! OMG this is hilarious!!!! Thanks for sharing again, even though I’m sure it’s traumatizing for you, each and every time you have to see that picture.

  3. The comment about chasing fireflies and PBKids cracked me up. Those costumes are ridiculously expensive. And what if it rains on Halloween? Because you know that’s what I am praying for!! I think Halloween is better spent with pizza watching Halloween movies on the couch!

  4. No words and this is so something my mother would have done to me, and god only knows what her reasoning would have been, as well, but still I try to remember to obey my kids wishes on stuff like this knowing what I went through as a kid myself! 😉

  5. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but seriously I was thinking “aw, your poor mom.” She probably thought it was the most adorable thing she ever saw and didn’t mean anything by it. (Ok, so now you know who’s getting tortured with evil glares and rolled eyes by her daughter at her own house these days!!)

  6. Aaawww, it s**** to notice how your own parents don’t seem to have a clue about who you are and what your hopes and dreams are. Even if they act with their best intentions! Did you ever have a conversation with them about the costume? (Or are they reading about it here? H,i Ashley’s Mom and Dad!)

  7. Oh my goodness, can I relate! I always wanted to be something beautiful, like a princess or I Dream of Jeannie. But the two years my mom sprung for the expensive costumes, instead of the plastic masks with the rubberband and the one-size-fits-all polyester pajamas, SHE chose them and came home with them. I had no say. One year it was a witch … with a big ugly fake nose. And the other, it was a musketeer. What 9-year-old girl wants to be a moustached guy with a sword and cape?

  8. I was thinking about this over the weekend because Goodwill had ads for getting Halloween costumes there (which isn’t a bad idea), it reminded me of your elephant. I still like the elephant.

  9. Oh dear. It’s really bad. Unless you absolutely loved elephants and it was your life’s dream to be one, this was not a good choice. Imagine what Freud would say.

  10. I remember this story and how even though I laughed reading it I also felt bad. I suffered through some pretty brutal Halloween years – some years we had to do make shift and then some years my mom was convinced that Halloween was evil and we couldn’t participate at all.
    I hope there are more costume pictures this week!

  11. When I saw the post title I thought you were thinking what I have been all day… Let’s just ruin all the holidays for the kids… Skip ’em all… Tell them Santa ain’t real etc. After 28 years of raising kids, I am TIRED! Of course I know what you all are thinking she needs to go with Scrooge this year!!! PMS AND Peri-lMenopause is NOT A GOOD COMBO!

  12. Oh my gosh… they eyes do say it all! So sorry your Halloween that year was so traumatizing! Make me glad my parents didn’t have a lot of money and we were able to create our own costumes with old clothes! My favorite was a hobo.

  13. Ok this is hilarious! That witch mask would have given kids nightmares. Who even produces something like that? Probably the people who created the Dark Crystal and The Last Unicorn would be my guess. You made a very cute elephant 🙂

  14. As soon as I started reading the story I broke out in laughter remembering what costume you got!!! And then? THOSE EYES!!! I forgot about those EYES!!!!




    Sorry babe. That really does suck.

  15. I can definitely remember the drug store costumes. Ours was Thrify, which is also where we got ice-cream. I remember the cheap plastic and ridiculous face masks held together with a rubber band. When costumes began to become cute was around my early 20s and that was the beginning of spending lots of money on costumes each year.

    Either way, parents sure do have a way of picking terrible things that they think their kids are sure to love!

  16. Oh…I have no words. That is quite the costume. I am quite certain that is every little girl’s dream…to dress up like an elephant. NOT! Parents never seem to pick out quite the right thing do they? I remember one year for Christmas after I was married, my parents bought us a food dehydrator. 🙂 Not quite the same as the Halloween costume debacle, but still left me shaking my head…

  17. That costume reminds me of the bunny costume Ralphie’s aunt made him in A Christmas Story – he was equally mortified! So how many times did you fall over in that costume? Visibility seems pretty poor.

  18. You should make your parents wear those costumes for Halloween this year. Though they would probably still find them adorable and wonderful. That last picture still makes me crack up too!

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