What Are You Going to Be? by
(89 Stories)

Prompted By Trick or Treat?

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As kids, we started thinking about the next Halloween on November first. Over the next several months, ideas were floated, refined, discarded, and resurrected. These were the most important decisions a kid could make in those days.

As a parent, I had to wait patiently while my kids repeated this cycle of indecision, hoping that there wouldn’t be a midnight sewing session involved on October 30th.

But I do love a good challenge. Want to be an aquarium for Halloween? I can do that. What about a 1950s style gum-cracking waitress. Easy peasy. A hippie? Still had stuff in my closet for this one: featuring my buttons and beads and a pair of dangly earrings that spelled out LO VE! (On the reverse of this sign: Trick or Treat!)  My older son was a big fan of the Amazing Mumford on Sesame Street, so one year I made him a cape and put his name in sequins on his top hat. Add one magic wand, and voila!

Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz? I even sacrificed a pair of my red shoes to make her ruby slippers!

Ever since my three kids were old enough to dress up for Halloween, I dragged out the old sewing machine and made their costumes. Eventually, they got old enough to pull their own costumes together. I think the last kid to go trick-or-treating went out as a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman with a necktie and a briefcase. Instead of saying “trick or treat,” he began with “Good evening, sir or madam,” and went into his spiel. To make him stop, people would shower him with candy. Well done!

During the Jazzercise years, I was bold enough to answer the door in my SuperMom outfit (not shown: a pair of those Candies slides that were popular in the ’80s.) Featured alongside me are SuperBoy and Strawberry Shortcake. Nothing says the ’80s like that perm, either.


During a trip to New York one year, I bought a Statue of Liberty crown for my daughter. Draped her in green fabric, made a flashlight torch, and she was good to go. Give me your tired, your poor…and your candy!

The pièce de résistance may have been the spaghetti and meatballs costume. This one really killed.

And one year I scared  my kids by dressing up like a vampire/zombie in my black Gunne Sax dress. The little devil here was very freaked out.

When I was a little girl, my dad was in charge of Halloween, both costumes and makeup. His training in theater made him highly qualified for the task. He would bring home his battered green makeup kit from his high school drama classroom and get to work on me and my sister. I don’t know where he found some of those costumes, but one year my sister was a flapper girl and I was a chubby bunny, complete with wax buck teeth and a prop carrot. Another year I got to be Zorro in black leotard and tights, cape, mask and pencil-thin mustache. Instead of a sword, I carried a wooden cane from one of my tap dance routines. I think my dad had as much fun as we did getting ready for Halloween.

My costume designing days are long gone. Instead, I watch the parade at the elementary school across the street every year to see what’s trending, who made an effort to create something fun and new, and who goes with the evergreen witch/angel/football player/zombie options. Watching the kids brings back special memories of magicians, hippies, and meatballs.


Featured image is of me and my daughter at a UCSF ICU reunion. She was too old (and too cool) to wear a costume, but we ended up going in these matching jack-o’-lantern t-shirts. It’s one of my favorite pictures of us.

Characterizations: been there, funny, right on!, well written


  1. Marian says:

    Your costumes were so creative and fun, Risa. Love this story and the great photos you kept. My favorite costume from childhood was a chicken (my mother made it), and as an adult, I went to a costume party as a hippie, with my own paisley scarf and love beads I’d made. I got the “most authentic” costume award.

    • Risa Nye says:

      That’s great, Marian! What you couldn’t see in the picture of my hippie girl: I inserted two pieces of paisley fabric to make her jeans into bell bottoms! So much fun.Thanks for your comments!

  2. Suzy says:

    Risa, you never cease to amaze me! These are such fabulous costumes, I’m so glad you have the pictures! I love them all so much! I did the Statue of Liberty crown + green sheet for my older daughter, but she didn’t look nearly as authentic as Caitlin! Also love that your father, the drama teacher, was in charge of costumes and makeup for you and your sister. You are a Halloween superstar!

  3. This was a wonderful blended ,montage of the descriptions and the photos. “Your tired, your poor, and your candy” definitely stands out as a line to be probably remembered forever!

  4. John Shutkin says:

    I am in awe, Risa! You have done amazing, creative costume design — and execution — over the years for Halloween costumes, and even have the great pictures to prove it. And yes; the spaghetti and meatballs is the p.d.r. Seriously, did you ever consider Hollywood or Broadway? In any event, thank you for sharing these delights with us.

    Perhaps most importantly, where were you the Halloween my brother decided to dress up as a light bulb? And nearly asphyxiated himself trying to wrap the bulb (i.e., himself) in Saran Wrap. Talk about dim bulbs…..

    • Risa Nye says:

      Oh, I remember hearing about a kid who went out dressed as a robot– wrapped in aluminum foil. Not as life-threatening as your brother’s bright idea, but hazardous just the same. Thanks for your kind words. My latest foray into costume design was just recently when I had to fashion a dress out of a pillowcase for my 3 yr old granddaughter after an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction. She loved it!

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    Loved this, Risa. I am in awe of your talent and really enjoyed all of the photos of your kids and the creative costumes.

  6. Dave Ventre says:

    In grade school, one of the kid’s father was a professional makeup artist (as in Broadway plays and real movies) so his costumes were at another level. He never entered our grade school costume contests, which was nice of him.

    And your SuperMom hair looks a lot like my wife’s did back in the 80s!

  7. Wow Risa/SuperMom!
    Meatballs & Spaghetti takes the cake!
    (and I love the red-checked tablecloth!)

  8. Betsy Pfau says:

    Fabulous costumes, fabulous photos, Risa. And all homemade. WOW! Very creative and impressive. As others have stated, I think you had as much fun as your kids did. Love it all, even the Jazzercise costume (we all had those perms – nothing to regret). You do look super-fit. Maybe having a drama teacher dad who did your costumes as a kid set the “stage” for all you own creativity later in life. And the grown up photo with your daughter still speaks to lifelong bonding and fun. Thanks for sharing it all.

  9. Khati Hendry says:

    Fabulous costumes, and so well executed1 You have real talent and imagination. Spaghetti and meatballs! My sister put together a costume for her two kids one year–the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building–that were unforgettable too. I bow before the masters.

  10. Good one, Risa! You were lucky to have a skilled drama teacher for a father, who cold help you with your Halloween costumes and makeup. And your kids were equally fortunate to have a crafty, creative mom building costumes for them. Your Statue of Liberty, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, and Spaghetti & Meaballs were particularly well-executed. Very dear memories.

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