It didn’t come with a letter to Hogwarts. But that was about the only thing missing from the Halloween costume on the kitchen table.
“I have a wand, too,” Missy told Heather. Indeed she did, along with the glasses, robe and tie needed to transform our small, slight, rumple-haired ward into the small, slight rumple-haired Harry Potter. Add in a lightning scar from Heather’s makeup kit – assuming Missy didn’t squirm and Disapparate out of reach – and the look of her favorite bedtime character would be complete.
No doubt about it. This was going to be cool.
In matters of trick-or-treat season, I usually have more enthusiasm than ability. This is despite the excellent foundation laid by my Mom, who in my grade-school years, came up with costume after costume that fit both my eager imagination and the Halloween Commandments.
1) Thou shalt be able to fit a coat over it.
2) Thou shalt be able to fit a doorway around it.
Violating these rules could lead to tragedy, as my wife Heather discovered one year, when her camera costume was too wide for her to enter the Twin Peaks Mall easily. I understand the lack of candy access has scarred her memories to this day – or at least heightened her sense of melodrama.
But within those rules, almost anything was possible. And so, I cheerfully ventured forth as a bowler-hatted ghost, or a crackling scarecrow, or Robin Hood with a homemade bow (thanks, Dad) ready for chocolate-covered glory in the cold October air.
And then I grew up and mostly yielded the stage to others. Time was short and my sewing ability even shorter. (All right, nonexistent.) A third commandment magically appeared on the list:
3) Thou shalt be able to readily assemble thy costume on Oct. 30, after speaking the ritual incantation “How did Halloween come so early this year?”
Sometimes I still had a fun and easy idea, like the year I showed up to work as an IRS agent with a briefcase reading “I’M NOT DEATH – I’M THE OTHER ONE.” But the rest of the time, costumes became something for plays. Or, more often, for other people.
It happens to most of us, I think. Not enough time. Not enough energy. A little too much self-consciousness.
So we tell ourselves, anyway, and not just on Halloween. And so costumes don’t get assembled, books don’t get written, chances don’t get taken. It’s easy. Even convincing.
And often, about as transparent as a Halloween ghost.
There are always limits. Time, money, ability. But within those, amazing things can still be possible. Or at least fun ones.
But first, the dream has to be more important than the limits.
That’s where I think parents have an advantage. Building a costume for yourself might seem silly or self-indulgent. But when it’s your child getting ready for a party or for the chocolate patrol? No contest. You do what you need to do.
Maybe it’s easier to set aside those doubts when it involves someone else. Maybe self-consciousness grows weaker when the moment is no longer just about the self.
Maybe, just maybe, dreams grow more potent when shared.
It’s a magic worth trying. And it doesn’t even require a holly wand or a Hogwarts education. Just a little bit of caring about the things and people that matter.
That’s why Missy Potter has a wand today.
And it’s why we’re all conjuring up more fun than we could have imagined.