Up until last weekend, a team of My Little Ponies couldn’t drag my daughter into the holiday corner of any store during the month of October. And those pop-up Halloween Costume places? Fuggettaboutit. Just driving by a storefront adorned by a Frankenstein or paper skeleton would bring on the cold sweats and tightly closed eyelids. Maybe there was some Mary Had a Little Lamb humming in there somewhere, too. My girl don’t do scary.
So last weekend, my husband and I decide to try a little shock therapy and turn the big, red cart toward THE corner. The one with the paper pumpkins suspended from the ceiling tiles and black-lit displayed gravestones. And the little girl stops in her tracks. “I’m not going down there,” her face like a stone. We keep walking. Sam points to an endcap.
“Baaah. Baaaaah. Bu bu bu baaaaa.” Yep. Balls.
And the little girl takes a step. And then another, as I assure her that I have already been back there and the scariest thing is an animated ghost that moans and both his eyeball lights are broken and not glowing anymore, so he’s obviously just a pretend ghost because real ghosts….well they just don’t exist. And she’s taking steps to catch up with us and we’re looking ahead pretending like nobody is scared and nobody should be and then we get there and she hesitates.
But we push the cart with the baby into the depths of sheer horror that is the Target Halloween department and start laughing at the googly-eyed skeletons and dancing mummies. I point out the purple lights and the cute puffy spider and the little girl starts to follow suit. She’s laughing, although nervously, and then the glitter encrusted skulls (that we’ll never be allowed to buy) catch her fancy.
“Oooooooh they have purple ANNNNDDDD orange.”
So there we are. All of us pointed in different directions. JG’s eyebrows arched toward the poofy dog costumes shaped like hot dogs and bumble-bees. Sam’s boppin his head to a classic, yet tinny version of The Monster Mash piping out of a wriggling bat-on-a-string. I’m trying to justify spending twenty-five smackers on a giant yard spider and the little girl is…. smiling.
And then I say, “wanna see the ghost?”
Before she has time to answer, I am pushing the red TRY ME button on a muslin covered robotic thingamajig with two broken eyeball lights and JG and I turn to watch the reaction. Fingers crossed.
Moooooaaaaaaaannnnnn. OOooooOOOOooOoooOoo. Mmmmmoooooaaaaannnn.
And it’s over. And her eyeroll puts to shame every teenaged girl on the planet. And we’re all sighing with relief and celebrating this “big girl” step and looking up the ghosts’s muslin skirt and that’s when we hear it. Nothing. From the captain’s seat of the red cart- an uneasy silence.
There he is, the little dude. Whiter than a wonky, muslin-covered thingamajig. Paralyzed by the sights and sounds of a mechanical monster he just last week laughed at and clapped for. And the tears well up in his eyes before the chin wrinkles appear. Before the lip quivers and parts in a terror-stricken moan not unlike the ghost himself. All of us gather around and hoist him out of the cart to hold him close and pat his back and get him the hell away from the ghost and back to that singing bat.
And the singing bat works.