I like Halloween. I think it’s because it’s an opportunity to become something or someone you are not any other day of the year. Either that, or I enjoy flights into fantasy.
When I was a kid back in Orange, Texas during the 1950’s, I usually dressed in my dance recital costume from the previous May. That is, unless I had grown four inches like I did one year. My dance costumes attached the top to the ruffled bottom by a series of hooks. If I could get the front hooks to connect, I looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. If I miraculously got all of the hooks, my hinny cheeks popped out from under the panties – not a good look for a child. If it rained or the weather turned cold, my dance recital costume became an automatic Mother reject. Then, I dressed in long pants, a flannel shirt, and stuck the made-at-school brown paper bag scary mask onto my head and proceeded to trick-or-treat. Or, I would wear one of Daddy’s old felt hats, put on a black eye mask, and hang a red kerchief stuffed with newspaper on the end of one of Mother’s yardsticks. Instant hobo.
When I was in the second grade, our school gave a “Peter Rabbit” musical play. Each class was a different vegetable in Mr. MacGregor’s garden. My class was carrots, probably because I was the tallest second grader in school. In my costume, I looked like an orange colored string bean with a green whiskbroom stuck on top of my head. I hated the girls in the class next to mine. They were lettuces with green, ruffled skirts and frilly tops with sequins. When Halloween came around that year, there was no way I was stepping outdoors in that stupid, straight up and down carrot costume.
When we moved to Maracaibo, I only went trick-or-treating to the few Texas families that lived in our immediate neighborhood. Venezuelans did not trick-or-treat at all. Since there were no more dance recital costumes for me, and since Mother had given my sister’s square dance dress to the maid, it was up to me to concoct a costume for my American school’s Halloween celebration. Once I was a gypsy. I wore one of Mother’s skirts held up to my waist by several large safety pins overflowing with fabric, a scarf around my hair, and all the costume jewelry anyone would loan me. Another time, Mother made a costume for me out of an old white sheet. I was a flapper.
When I attended San Marcos Academy in San Marcos, Texas (where students were under Baptist scrutiny at every moment), we likewise did not go trick-or-treating. There was a dance-less Halloween party or carnival in our gym. Our cadet officers patrolled the SMA campus all Halloween night to prevent the townies and the local college students from pushing our canon off its hill. Nothing’s worse than finding your school cannon has taken a nocturnal nosedive, barrel first, into the ground. I peeked out my third floor window after lights-out and caught moonlight glimpses of cadets on tour in front of the girls’ dorm, in uniform, with lit cigarette in hand – the epitome of teen “machismo.”
Halloween 2011 brought clever and well thought out costumes to our door – except for the boys who came as soccer or football players. One leggy high school girl arrived at our door with her friend. She wore the shortest, smallest pair of cutoffs I have ever seen. Not only cut high on the thigh, but low-cut on the waistband, front and back. I paused as I reached to hand her treats. The “mother” in me got the best of the situation.
“Honey, does your mother know you’re dressed like that?” I asked.
Without batting an eye, she said, “No, she doesn’t.”
“I can see why,” I said. Thank heaven our children are adults.
This year’s cutest costume came on a little boy about four years old. He wore a head-to-toe fuzzy green dinosaur suit complete with spikes down the back and a long, forked tail. When I opened the door, he looked at me with a gleeful smile, his hands posed in front of his chest like claws. I waited for him to growl or pounce at me. Instead, he looked at me with a devilish grin and said, “Roar, roar!” I, naturally, collapsed in laughter. That dinosaur kid got more treats from me than anyone that night.