Halloween at the Museum
Getting down with a giant dinosaur
For years, we had to coax our preschooler into going to "the dinosaur museum" by downplaying the inherently scary aspects of dead creatures on display, some of them enormous. He wasn't frightened, just (understandably) a little weirded out. Eventually it became a ritual to stand next to the huge looming skeleton and say "You big bag of bones!" with delight. Not scary, just big.
On our way to the museum's Halloween party, Ernie announced he wasn't afraid of Halloween at the dinosaur museum. Of course not. His aunt had made him a spectacular dinosaur costume out of sticky stuff from the Scrap Box and a gray sweat suit. He looked magnificent. And there was, of course, candy to be had.
After a brief tussle with some stressed-out coordinator at the door, we hurried along the corridors of the museum. The usually fuzzy, feathered, or scaly stuffed creatures lining the hallways seemed particularly ominous and scary. Even the stuffed bunnies looked scary.
At one of the activity stations, volunteer Ann Gonzalez explained to me what the Exhibit Museum's Matt Linke used to create comets: liquid carbon dioxide, dry ice, dirt, sand, gravel, crystallized ammonia, and alcohol. Multicolored glitter simulated the comet's metallic content. The end result was really cool, a glowing, steamy mass of bizarre ice that we unfortunately couldn't take home because it just melts.
At a station called "The Mummy Unwrapped," Ernie and I filled a sheet of paper with hieroglyphic stamps. We spelled out his name, used other stamps to decorate the scroll, and sealed it with yet another stamp.
Stuffed dead animals and creepy live ones aside, perhaps the most exciting part for my kids was seeing the other children (and adults) in costume. Bunnies, bats, vampires, and monsters greeted us at every table and ran through the halls from one activity to the next with handfuls of candy, comets, and hieroglyphics.
At the snake table, a little princess/fairy/ballerina asked her mother, "What
do snakes turn into after they come out of their skins?" "They don't turn into anything, honey. They're just bigger snakes."
On the way home, Ernie asked what he would be when he got bigger. "Can I be a snake?" he asked through a mouthful of Tootsie Rolls. "Because if I were a snake, I could shed my skin and grow bigger when I want to eat more candy. Nobody tells a snake how much candy he can eat."
This year's U-M Exhibit Museum of Natural History Halloween party is Sunday,
[Originally published in October, 2003.]