An only partially rhetorical question:
How hard should it be for a woman to find a rubber snake? Is this not a household staple? Why, when I'm shopping at my local Target, should I not be able to accost the nearest person in a red shirt, ask "excuse me, where are the rubber snakes?" and be immediately directed to them?
Let me start at the beginning. 7yo wanted to be Indiana Jones for Hallowe'en. Surprisingly, this was A-OK with the 4yo, who decided to be a Transformer, "Ochimus Prime" to be exact. Sadly, he only got to wear his costume for a quick run to a couple of our close neighbors and friends, as he was suffering with pneumonia. 7yo, on the other hand, was in perfect health and ready for a full slate of Hallowe'en events, starting with his school party, proceeding to a birthday-slash-Hallowe'en party for a swim teammate, followed nearly immediately by trick or treating. The costume was important.
You may recall that under ordinary circumstances, the 7yo does not care what he wears. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough. He doesn't care AT ALL. In seven and a half years during which I've laid clothes out for him daily, he has never once objected to anything I've chosen for him to wear. His little brother negotiates almost daily for a different shirt, or different pants (his latest object of hatred is jeans. Having reconciled himself to long pants, which he still rolls up to his thighs, he insists on "the REAL long pants!" Jeans are NOT the REAL long pants.) So, when I showed 7yo the elements of his costume, including
1. Khaki pants
2. White oxford shirt
3. Dark brown corduroy jacket
4. Camera bag
5. Whip (this was a birthday gift from my sister to the 4yo, who graciously loaned it for the costume), I was rather surprised to see him carefully examine each item. The only time he looks at a piece of clothing is when he's putting it on in the morning, to ensure that the tag is in the back, and he doesn't always bother with that. Who is this child scrutinizing the buttons on the shirt and the texture of the jacket? The texture was the first source of concern.
"Mommy", he said, "this jacket is not shiny. Indiana Jones' jacket is made of shiny stuff. "
"Yes", I said. "That's called 'leather'. You don't have a leather jacket, and my budget does not allow for the purchase of one for the sake of Halloween costume authenticity."
"This bag is black. It's not supposed to be black. It's supposed to be brown."
"I know, but trust me, the effect is the same. You're looking for an overall effect, not perfection in every detail".
"What kind of shirt does he wear? Is this the right kind of shirt? I don't know if this is the right kind of shirt". (Here began a search for a magazine that he knew had an ad for the Indiana Jones DVD. Magazine is found and careful comparison between the pictured shirt and the actual shirt reveals that it is in fact the right kind of shirt! Excellent!) And the hat had already been fully vetted and pronounced acceptable.
So back to the snake. Having failed to find a snake at Target (no toy guns there either. There are toys that represent every other form of mayhem, INCLUDING A DIE CAST REPLICA OF THE ENOLA GAY, but no guns. Just as well, I'm afraid that a toy gun worn to school as part of a Halloween costume would have landed the poor child on the wrong side of a zero-tolerance policy. Second grade is too early for expulsion, let alone a record), I searched CVS, the local dollar store, and the party store, finally locating a perfectly serviceable rubber snake. My idea, approved as hilarious by my husband, was to attach the snake to the back of the jacket with a cartoon bubble saying "BOO!", because Indiana Jones is afraid of snakes. Here was where my son drew the line.
Black camera bag instead of brown? Hmmm.
Corduroy jacket, not leather? OK, I guess it will have to do.
No gun? Well, at least I have the right hat.
Rubber snake? NO WAY! Indiana Jones WOULD NOT walk around with a snake yelling "boo" attached to his back! Nothing could convince him that an element of humor is always desirable in a Hallowe'en costume, and I guess this is the fundamental difference in the view of Hallowe'en between adults and children. For them, this is not an opportunity to look silly or outrageous or to get a laugh. Hallowe'en is when they get to BE something else. While authenticity in every detail might not be possible, they're certainly not willing to consent to any alterations just for a laugh. I mean, really. If you were a scheming Nazi or a ruthless KGB agent, how seriously could you take a guy with a rubber snake velcroed to his back? So we played the Indiana Jones costume straight, and even with the jacket and bag, everyone knew immediately who he was supposed to be. But despite the insistence on correct attire and accessories, he was willing to make an exception for the plastic pumpkin for the candy. That camera bag wasn't nearly big enough to carry the boy's fair share of KitKats and Skittles.