Some things shouldn't be worn in public. Except on Halloween. For example: those black tights thingies that lots of people in Rhode Island think are pants. I found a pair in my closet (thanks Mom!) and wondered what would be more ghastly than parading around in them at our church Halloween party. Jesse advised me to wear shorts over them though. Good idea. We didn’t want to make Halloween extra memorable by shocking the geriatric crowd into myocardial infarction.
The last time I dressed up was in 2007. Up to that point I remember most of my Halloween costumes.
Age 5: Sleeveless polyester Tinkerbell smock thing that looked like a skin-toned and light green rain coat with matching plastic shell of a mask with eye holes and a coiffure of hard, yellow hair.
Age 6: Homemade clown costumes for Merella, Landon, and me, sewn by my mom. Full body suits that slipped on over our snowsuits and sown in vertical halves with one half of the costume light blue and the other a bold pattern of yellow, orange and green stripes. Matching pointy cloth hats that tied under our chins and framed our faces in ruffles. Mom used lipstick to paint our noses and a round circle on each of our cheeks.
Age 7: Bouncing blob of orange. Orange shirt with black jack-o-lantern face and orange pants. Orange. Pants.
Age 8: Cowgirl outfit from the Philippines.
Age 9-10: ?? At some point Grandma sent me a pre-packaged store-bought angel costume—with wings!—for my birthday. It was my favorite. But it was ruined by a temperature of 20 below (with windchill), and after tugging it on over my snow pants and jacket, I just looked like an obese fairy.
Age 11: I was a witch. Or something. I found an old black dress in the house and fashioned a loose skirt out of it. The skirt was held up by a piece of dental floss that had to be readjusted every five minutes. I spent most of the day sitting at my desk and avoided standing or moving if at all possible.
Ages 12-18: ??? No recollection whatsoever. Although I did dress up for “Quadrilateral Day” for geometry class. I came to school as a “parallelogram” and stayed up until 2 a.m. baking three-dozen rhomboid-shaped cookies. I got five points extra credit.
Age 19: Freshman year at BYU, our whole apartment felt obligated to attend the ward Halloween party. The dollar racks at DI came through for us: my roommates were rice farmers, a Wyoming native, Sheri (what costume did you wear?!), and I was supposed to be Anne’s “bosom friend” from Anne of Green Gables. I think I won the fifth place prize in the costume contest: an orange. The same one used in that stupid game where you pass the orange to the person next to you in line using your only your neck and chin.
Age 21: I had long hair and a psychedelic blue and green shirt. Somehow I persuaded Jesse to wear a cow suit, complete with rubbery 3D udders. Maybe this why we didn’t dress up after that?
Age 27: These outfits are a result of five seconds’ worth of thought, plus a summer of playing Angry Birds with Evan. If the costumes weren’t identifiable, the matching cupcakes removed all doubt.
|I take it back. There are unflattering pictures of me...|
| Jesse kept in character all evening by walking behind me and |
tapping my ankles with his blind cane.
|The red 40 and crunchy sprinkles will give you a headache.|
|The cupcakes lasted about 2.5 seconds at the party, and now |
people don't know our names. They just call us "Angry Birds."
Our plan was to show up, make our appearance, get our free food, and go home. We were mobbed in the hall by kids who stared, slack-jawed, sucking in the drool from the edges of their plastic vampire teeth. They followed us around, pulling my tail and asking Jesse if they could “try” his blind cane.
A few words spoken with an under bite in the “village English” accent (sorry, only Dad/Jesse/ BYU roommates know what this sounds like) of rural, Inupiaq Eskimo Alaska sum up our first Rhode Island Halloween: “Man, so cheap!” In Standard American English this means something like utterly inadequate and feebly anticlimactic.
“So cheap” because Hurricane Irene blew away so many leaves that we're having an uncharacteristically lame New England fall. No flaming red and gold trees. Just gray fog hanging on undressed branches.
“So cheap” because we haven’t figured out what our family traditions are. When our family is big enough to stage mock productions of Something Wicked This Way Comes in our living room, and the kids are old enough to appreciate Poe and my favorite scary movie, Wait Until Dark, then we'll be on our way. But with just Jesse and me, we watch Hocus Pocus every year, but Bette Middler in buckteeth pales in comparison to my dad’s family traditions.
Every year, Grandpa grew Indian corn in the backyard garden. He harvested it in October and tied the ears in bundles to decorate lampposts, doors, tables, and banisters. Grandma loved making scarecrows and stationing them out in the yard. And Dad always went trick-or-treating with his best friend Johnny Rusnack. The golden rule of trick-or-treating at Dad’s house was that everyone had to eat a good dinner before leaving because they’d inevitably come home with chocolate rings around their mouths after sugar lust drove them up and down the neighborhood streets, stomping through crinkly leaf piles from streetlight to streetlight, collecting king size candy bars that cost a nickel. Stuffing your face with all the good stuff was imperative, since Mrs. Garrison, principal at Cedar Road Elementary School, expected candy donations for "Trick-or-treat for UNICEF." She set up a 10-gallon aquarium candy collecting station outside her office. The whole thing turned into a terrarium of everyone's least favorite sweets—candy corn and Goober Bars, a gross chocolate bar with peanuts in an ugly green wrapper—because nobody ever donated anything good to the kids in Africa.
“So cheap” because we got three trick-or-treaters. Of course, I picked lame Halloween candy. I like those big bags of Tootsie Rolls only because they throw in a few boxes of Dots, which remind me of Candy Land. So I picked out all the Dots for myself, and will continue to bring the remaining five pounds of Tootsie Rolls to URI and make my students eat them all.
Nobody invites trick-or-treaters into their house anymore, like they did when Dad was a kid in Philadelphia. It was perfectly safe to enter the house to get your candy so the grownups could check out your costume and try to guess who you were. Half the fun of trick-or-treating was going into each house and inhaling musty air in living rooms filled with black and white ancestral family photos and old furniture and guns hanging above the mantels. I can’t wait until I’m old and can invite kids into my house and give them staplers and coasters and laundry detergent for Halloween, like in Grumpy Old Men.
“So cheap” because we didn’t even carve a pumpkin. Although we had a good excuse. We bought a gorgeous pumpkin from Tougas Farm on 10/15 and left it sitting out on our stairs for a good week and a half. On the morning of the 29th, we stepped outside and noticed pumpkin raider(s) had attacked it. A big bite was taken out of it, conspicuously positioned right on the front.
The next morning, Jesse opened the door to find the culprit, one of these peanut butter fiends, sitting in the snow, sitting perfectly still, like it would be invisible if it didn’t move. It ran under the stairs, but resurfaced on top of the pumpkin and recommenced chewing. Eventually it had eaten what looked like the shape of a bat with its wings spread out on the front. How festive.
Sigh. Maybe next year we’ll try harder.
|Pumpkin raiding continued until the critters bored a hole through the shell.|