by | Oct 22, 2000 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

With Halloween just around the corner, many of you are facing a difficult decision: Do I buy a costume for my child, or do I make one?

The answer is so simple let me whisper it in your ear:


You BUY no matter how much it costs! You BUY if it’s your last dime. You BUY if you have to go to the bank and get down on your hands and knees begging for a loan.

I know the people behind “Star Wars” and “Pokemon” are part of an evil conspiracy to break your bank account with plastic masks that cost as much as a Jackie Onassis pants suit.

So what? You BUY it. Unless you want to risk the alternative:

A humiliated child who will never forgive you for the rest of his natural life.

I speak from experience.

I am that child.

The tale of the Mummy

I have told this story once before. I must, for public safety, tell it again. It happened when I was 7 years old.

My mother, bless her heart, decided to go domestic that year. She would make my costume.

Of course, since we didn’t keep green skin or Frankenstein masks around the house, the homemade possibilities were pretty slim. We put our heads together, thought long and hard about costume material, and looked, as all good families eventually do, in the direction of the toilet paper.

Hey. I said “domestic,” not “artistic.”

Sure, it would have been better had we thrown a bedsheet over my head and called me Casper. I might have bumped into a few telephone poles while trick or treating. No big deal.

But nooooooooooo …

Instead, my mother, bless her heart — did I say that already? — decided to take that toilet paper, along with white cotton rags, and wrap them all around me, one by one. And I would become the very scary creature known as …

…the Mummy.

(Actually, given my size, if I had been in “Austin Powers,” I would have been

No matter. My mother, bless her heart — I did say that already, didn’t I? — was seduced by the warm, fuzzy feeling of using homemade craft to help her child.


Because this is what happened: My mother wrapped me up, piece by piece, rag by rag, securing each strip tightly with a safety pin, then securing the toilet paper with glue.

And by the time she was done, I had strips around my ankles, knees, thighs, and forehead — and toilet paper everywhere else.

Did I mention I wasn’t wearing pants?

What mummy wore pants? I wore pajama bottoms.

And off I went.

The curse of toilet paper

Now, in those days, we had a Halloween parade every year. The school marched the kids five blocks in one direction and five blocks back. All the parents came out. Cute, right? Very Norman Rockwell?

So there I was, marching along, feeling very scary in my mummy costume, over my pajama bottoms, and suddenly, I felt …a raindrop.

And then another.

And I began to feel a draft.

I reached back — and a rag slid off my arm.

And another slid down my leg.

And another slid off my waist.

And the toilet paper was getting mushy.

And by the time we turned the corner, I was no longer the scary mummy.

I was a 7-year-old boy in soggy toilet paper, hopping down the street with rags around my ankles.

And of course, I was crying.

And then …I saw my mother. She was standing across the street, with the other mothers. She put her hand to her mouth — I’m sure it was in sympathy, but I swear I saw her hiding a laugh — and through my sobbing tears, I yelled, “YOU RUINED MY LIFE!”

Now. I ask you, folks. Is this what you want with your children?

I think not.

Please. BUY. Avoid scissors. Avoid tape. By all means avoid safety pins.

I, of course, have forgiven my mother.

I still have issues with toilet paper.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or Catch “Albom in the Afternoon” 3-6 weekdays on WJR-AM (760).


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New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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