My mother hated Halloween.

We never understood why. It started in July when the costume catalogues arrived. Mom would tap the page of a benign Snow White or fireman, wary but hopeful. We would balk at her simple dreams.  

My sister chose Mickey Mouse one year. But her Mickey had to be an Olympian. An Olympian figure skater. Mom tried holding her to “just Mickey” but relented in the end, hot-gluing a sequined toga for six hours until the first trick-or-treater arrived. That same year, I decided to be a clown. Guided by my vision, I evolved into “Clown on Fire!” Mom suffered slight burns loading dry ice into my fanny pack.

Once, my brother began as a normal Darth Vader. But in the final 24 hours, he upgraded to Darth Centaur, requesting life-sized goat legs under his robes. My mom did slay at papier mâché.

When my own son was born a few days before Halloween my mother suppressed a smile as we affectionately dubbed him “Halloween baby.” The first seasons were fun. We snuggled him into a pumpkin cap as an infant. Paraded him as a stegosaurus the next year. It was only when he turned 4 that things changed.

“I want to be a monster!” So cute was the proclamation. We clapped as I sketched out a crude drawing. “More eyeballs,” he demanded. “Where are the lights? I’ll need an extra head,” he said, grabbing my pencil. 

A monster indeed.

But I am my mother’s daughter. We deliver for Halloween. However, after the fifth Goodwill stop, I came up empty-handed in my search for automated appendages, not to mention my failure to procure a bloody Kraken stump. Yet, somehow — I pulled it off.

These days not much has changed. I hear them in the other room, sorting candy, planning their costumes for next year. Something about two-story stilts. Liquid rust. A bale of hay.

No doubt, they’ll be dressed to kill.

If Halloween doesn’t kill me.



Cate Berry is a children’s book author and mother of two in Austin, Texas. She also teaches writing workshops for young people at

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