Ruby slippers give a run for the money

It’s 5:30 AM on a Sunday morning and I just washed the glitter paint residue from under my fingernails. I got up at 5:00 to apply another coat of paint to my daughter Kate’s ruby slippers for her Halloween Wizard of Oz costume. Don’t bother to ask. I’ll just tell you.

Maybe some parents live for Halloween, but this one doesn’t. Each year costumes are a different variation on bad. In kindergarten, Kate wanted to be Snow White. For 10 bucks, I bought an off the rack costume, smugly thinking I was done. Now the rest of the story:
The trouble began when my little Snow White wore the costume outside for recess because “the teacher said I could.” It was probably the only time all year she listened to Mrs. Watson.

Then a funny thing happened. Through no fault of her own (just ask her), Snow White got into a scuffle with some tougher characters and her skirt got hung up on the slide. By the time she hit daycare, she was looking pretty worse for wear.

The flimsy nylon costume was rumpled and stained, its skirt shredded into hula dancer strips. The mask had also taken a few direct hits. What did she have to say for herself? “When I’m trick-or-treating, I’ll say Snow White’s dress got grabbed by the trees in the forest.”

“It looks like she got grabbed all right,” said her brother in his washable polyester ninja costume. “But not by Mother Nature.”

For three years running, Connor had insisted upon wearing the same black ninja costume. A parental dream come true! I hemmed the pants the first year, removed the hem the second year, and had him wear black knee socks the third year. I hoped he’d want to wear it again this year with black pantyhose underneath. No such luck.

“I want to be a soldier,” he announced. Not just any soldier, but a WWII marine. He was greatly dismayed when I told him he couldn’t carry a firearm and that his authentic WWII cigarette case with lighter wouldn’t be making the trip to school, either.

Connor reads and watches everything he can get his hands on related to WWII. Last month we went to a lecture by an author who had written a book about Don Malarkey, a soldier featured in the HBO military saga, “Band of Brothers.” Last night he fell asleep watching the video “Memphis Belle.” Charming, but extra time and expense for the amateur costumer parent.

We made a helmet by cutting up $3 worth of camouflage scrapbooking paper and adhering small pieces to an old bicycle helmet that I picked up at Goodwill for $4. When the first glue did not work, I had to spend another $4 on spray-on adhesive and $2 on clear sealer.

Soldier costume expenses already dwarfed the Snow White tab and we only had head cover. Next came an $8 army jacket I picked up at a used store. At K-Mart, I found for $10 a pair of camouflage pants that he could wear again. He’ll enter Halloween battle wearing work boots, not combat boots because his commanding officer mother is now broke, which brings me back to Kate’s Dorothy shoes.

I picked up a princess dress for Kate for $3 at a garage sale. But then I found a high quality (by Halloween standards), used Dorothy dress for $4. Kate was all about being Dorothy. A co-worker gave us size 2 ½ ruby slippers, which no amount of tissue stuffed in the toes could make fit. So I went back on the shoe hunt. Nearing defeat, I finally located ruby glitter paint that my desperation convinced me would work.

Six coats of ruby glitter paint later, the attempt remains embarrassingly hideous at best. The shoes we sacrificed to the Halloween costume had Velcro fasteners and make for a much more athletic Dorothy. At least that’s how this wicked witch sold their appearance to Kate.

In retrospect, renting a pair of the “real” slippers from a collector of the 1939 movie memorabilia would have been cheaper and less hassle. But that wouldn’t make for a believable story by Kansas standards.

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