Halloween Has Changed; Baby-Sitting Has Not


Spent a delightful weekend in The Acreage last week, hanging out with sons and daughters and grandsons (well, OK, just one of each). Mark and I had offered to baby-sit so Matthew and Shelley could get ready for a Halloween costume party they were attending Saturday evening.

It is always fun to see how things have changed since I was their age, and also to see how things have not changed.

I hardly get the opportunity to wear a costume anymore, but if I did, I’d put the same effort into it that Shelley did. An insurance rep, Shelley decided to go as Flo, the beehive-coiffed brunette you see in the Progressive commercials. Progressive made it easy for her by having downloads available on their web site so she could reproduce the exact buttons, badges and banners Flo wears on her apron. How brilliant of them.

The hair was more of a challenge, but Shelley eventually found a wig that did the job. Bright red lipstick was easy to do, and Flo’s outfit — a white polo shirt and white slacks topped off with the aforementioned white apron — was also easily replicated. Shelley had never worn false eyelashes before, but the Progressive web site showed her how to do her eyes, right down to the eyeliner.

This online costume instructional was something I did not have at my disposal when I was in my 30s. When I went to a party dressed as Catwoman, I had to rely on comic books and movie posters for inspiration, taping black vinyl together in patches and adding white “stitching” via fabric paint.

Of course, movie characters are always popular at Halloween. Son Matthew dressed as Ron Burgundy, from the movie Anchorman. That costume was readily available off the rack as part of the promotion for the upcoming movie release of Anchorman 2. Movies and commercials are all intertwined these days, together with Halloween and politics. We’re just one great big promo nation.

A lot has changed. Fortunately, what has not changed is baby-sitting. For minimal effort, grandparents are rewarded with all the smiles and hugs they can stand. In fact, “minimal effort” is actually the key. Mason is 2, and, although he has a ton of battery-operated toys, musical computer games and animated television options, what he really wants is to be turned upside down and tickled. If you make the mistake of repeating something he likes, for instance, counting to three and then diving in to buss his tummy, you will be doing that all night — unless you sub in something equally fun, like scooping him up, swinging him around and depositing him in Grandpa’s lap… 100 times. Hopefully you ate your Wheaties that morning.

Doing grandparent duty has its own rewards, but you don’t know if you’ve successfully completed your task unless the toddler is fed, bathed, diapered and asleep when the happy parents come home toting a little plastic Best Costume trophy.

Then and only then has your mission been accomplished.