On a rare, quiet Sunday, I began to plot a quest to Costco, Marshalls and the Disney Store to seek out Halloween costumes. What branded princess or pirate would set me adrift in malls this year, longing for my lost home like Odysseus? I sighed and asked my 5.5 year old daughter what she wanted to be. She replied, “Mommy, I want to make up my own thing this year.” I asked my 3 year-old son the same question, expecting to hear “Jake!” from his beloved Jake and the Neverland Pirates. He looked me in the eye and answered, “I wanna be a Passion-Fruit Puppy” (a character of his own creation that has inspired him to crawl around on all fours, barking, for the past week).

As usual, my kids are way ahead of me. Halloween, a holiday that has its roots in the European Christian custom of praying for the recently departed on All Souls Day, has grown ubiquitous in the U.S. because it is a celebration of the core American values of inventiveness and personal expression. What is Halloween if not an opportunity for our entire culture to engage in imaginative play? Letting my kids come up with their own superheroes is a way for them to symbolically express what they value and whom they want to become.

So based on my puerile fascination with The League of Justice and The X-Men, I asked my kids the following questions to help them develop their own superheroes:

  • What special powers does your superhero have?
  • How did he get his powers?
  • What is heroic? What makes someone a hero?
  • Whom does your superhero stand up for? What does she protect?
  • Who are his friends and family?
  • What is his secret identity? How does he or she disguise himself to blend in with ordinary mortals?
  • Does your superhero have a weakness?

At bedtime, our children regaled me with stories of “The Fairy of the Animals” and her sidekick, “Passion Fruit Puppy,” for a solid hour.  This play premise has evolved into an ongoing family mythology that has taken on a life of its own.

I am not “craftsy,” yet these costumes were a breeze to cobble together. I ordered a generic puppy suit and gold fairy outfit from Ricky’s. We are adding personal embellishments like a cardboard collar with fruit on it for the puppy. I am planning to duck tape stuffed animals to my daughter to avoid anything that resembles sewing.

To folks handing out candy, my kids will look like a plain-old fairy and puppy, but in their minds, and mine, they will be extraordinary.