This past Halloween has brought back dear memories of my childhood, of all the different costumes I have donned over the years. Being one of the stranger children in my neighborhood, my costumes were not on the norm. I think this can be attributed to my first real Halloween when I was actually asked what I wanted to be. I believe I was five. ``I want to be a pirate!'' I told my mother. I had visions of me running up and down the street, barking warnings and threats waving a saber and causing genuine fear in the hearts of all. I could see myself battling on porches with other trick-or-treaters in their stupid bedsheets with holes in them, or dressed in all black carrying around brooms. I could see myself running these inferior through with my weapon and stepping, triumphantly, over their fallen bodies to press the doorbell and collect my loot (plus steal all the candy of my opponents). I figured I had it made... until my mother came home with pertinent part of my costume.
``Mom, what's that?'' I asked suspiciously, indicating a certain cellophane wrapped lump among several cellophane wrapped lumps.
``Well, this is your sword, here I have your mustache, it looks like Groucho Marx's but it'll do-''
``No, what's that?''
``What this? Your hat?''
She held up a small package, in which were a pair of black tights.
My heart skipped.
``It's going to be cold, dear, you need these.''
It was the genuine little-kid feeling of: Oh my God, I'm going to look like a girl! But I kept my cool as well as any five year old could, and asked: ``So, what am I going to wear over them?''
``Nothing, these will keep you warm enough.''
``Mom... Mother,'' (I had to handle this situation carefully) ``... one of the points of dressing up as a pirate... is to dress up as a pirate.'' I indicated the tights, and shook my head. ``Now, don't I have something-''
``Look, you'll look just as much like a pirate as any of the other pirates in the neighbo-''
``Other pirates?!'' I screamed, ``Enemies, all of them! I'll run them through, give me my saber! Have at them!!'' I rushed to the door.
``Stop right there! You haven't got your costume on!''
``I'm an undercover pirate!'' Any excuse to get out the door with my regular clothes on. Had I been born a few years later I could have legitimately gone out as the Highlander, but there was no saving me that year.
``There's no such thing, get back here and get a costume on.''
``Okay, okay, but can I be a Pirate going to church, so that I have to wear a nice suit?'' Man, I was getting pathetically desperate.
``NO! Now come over here and put these on, I got them especially for your costume so you'd better use them!''
Yipes, money issues. No backing out. I was screwed. Worse; I was tighted.
I morosely went to my room and donned my garb. I don't remember much after that, just that my brother's mask was so obstructing to his view that he couldn't see enough of me to make fun of. The rest of the night was a blank. I can't even remember how much candy I got, only that it wasn't the bounty I had imagined before my mother got home.
I do remember one moment of the night. Going up the stairs to one house, another kid my age was coming down. He was as depressed as I was, and it didn't take me long to see why; he was going as a pirate, and he had been dressed up in tights also. We exchanged glances, and an understood mutual sympathy passed between us before we moved past each other and on into the night.
After that Halloween, I had had it. I took it upon myself to be as creative, as original, and as mind boggling weird as possible to prevent the horrid intrusion of humiliating adornment by my parents. I would propose to be such crazy things that neither my parents would have an idea of how to dress me, and ultimately leave the decision to me. And, my friends, it worked.
My first try was not the most original, but it got me away from tights, which was all I wanted. I was six and I went around as Charlie Brown. It was great; I had a bald cap with two strands of hair drawn on it, a yellow shirt that had a black construction paper zigzag across it, and my stuffed animal Snoopy. It was great, I was Charlie Brown, and I did it myself! I went out with my bag and my father and started collecting.
My plan fell through slightly, no one knew who the Hell I was. Someone at one point thought I was a young Telly Savalas, and I kicked them in the shins. This was by the end of the evening when I was sick of all the ``Oooh, and who are you supposed to be?'' at every opened door. I started getting less and less candy as my temper shortened. In retrospect, if I had just been depressed instead of angry, I could have passed better for Charlie Brown. But, as it was I did get candy and I didn't have to wear tights, which was all that counted to me then.
When I was seven, I remember seeing Boba Fett in ``The Empire Strikes Back'' and thinking; Wow. Just that: Wow.
I began getting stuff together for my costume, which wasn't much. I had a pair of pants that had pockets on the knees as well as the hips and back, and I just thought those were the neatest thing, a bounty hunter would wear something like that. Plus they were grey. Stick to neutral colors, that was my watchword. I had my Sonic Blazer gun, which made all kinds of funky noises at different settings. It was great, I was looking more and more like ol' Boba by the minute. A jacket with, of course, more pockets. I wish I had stuff to put in them, but who cares. It wasn't tights. And last, but certainly not least, a helmet. I had found this helmet left on the ground in the park near my house, and y'know... Finder's Keeper's? Anyway, I fixed it all up and put it on. I had been out there a while, but I didn't care; it looked cool. It completely covered my head and face, and had a dark plastic visor over the eyes; it was sweet.
Halloween. I was definitely the coolest kid in my group. I went with a bunch of friends, chaperoned by one parent, and I got the most complements. I felt ten- no, fifteen feet tall. Hell, I was better dressed than some of the older kids.
There was one kind of bad part near the end of the night though. We were on this one porch and all milling around to grab candy, when I felt something brush by my ear. At first I thought it was just my hair, but then I started feeling things running across my face and neck, and I knew something was up. I began grabbing at my helmet to get it off.
Meanwhile, my friends began to look at me strangely, because I was hopping around a little trying to get the helmet off. One of them helped me, and together we got it off. As I dropped the helmet and looked at everybody, there was an incredible ``WOW!'' in unison from all my friends and the parent.
Evidently the helmet had been the home of some spider who had decided to lay its egg sac there. When you're seven, seeing your friend suddenly sprout hundreds of baby spiders out of his head is considered extremely cool, hence the loud ``WOW!'' I got home and showered and didn't mention a word of it. I prayed the chaperon wouldn't ask my parents how there son managed that ''incredible spider effect'' on Halloween. Ever since I've been a bit freaked of crawlie things.
When I was eight, I was going through my NASA fascination phase of my childhood, and so I decided to be SkyLab for Halloween. I wrapped myself up in aluminum foil, taped various wires and bits of electronics to myself, and went around the neighborhood falling on people. It was lost on most of my friends, and not a few of their parents. I didn't care; I got candy.
For Halloween when I was nine I decided to be a bit abstract. I wore a tannish brown suit of my father's, painted my face grey, and went around the neighborhood as ``a piece of clay with gravel in it.'' Again, it was lost on my friends, but their parents loved it. So did the people whose houses I stopped at; they said ``I had potential.'' I didn't quite like that, because they never said what I had potential as, and I spent many a night laying awake staring at the ceiling, wondering about it.
I was ten. No more fooling around. I was going to scare the bejeezus out of some people if it killed me. I was a demon.
I wasn't joking around! I was a satellite of Satan, a harbinger of Death, and a whole slew of other impressive sounding things! Man, I was set! I got a black cloak (my father's bathrobe, slightly modified), grey face makeup (remember, neutral colors), vampire teeth, horns for my head, and the old bald cap I had used four years before. I stretched the bald cap back to add a pointy look to my head, colored it and my face grey, put a few lines of green makeup along it, stuck the two horns to my head, put in my teeth, donned my cloak, and I was set. I went out with a trash bag, anticipating people being so scared they'd give me all their candy just to get me to leave.
Unfortunately, when I got to the first house, I rang the doorbell, waited, the door opened, this old guy with a pipe came out, took one look at my bald cap, smiled and turned back to the doorway saying: ``Hey Ethyl, some kid's out here dressed up as Charlie Brown!''
Again, I did get candy, but not as much I had expected.
When I was eleven, teachers at the school began stressing the importance of individuality, which I took so much to heart that for that Halloween I decided to ``just be myself.''
I really only got about five pieces of candy. Two of them were from my own house; my brother was working candy that year and he didn't recognize me when I came to the door. He just gave me a piece of candy, and closed the door. The same thing the second time. I thought I had something going until the third time when he realized I was the same kid who had been by before and threw me off the porch into the rhododendron bush.
I made up for it though. I got the other three prices the same way from the house next door, only I ran away when the guy caught on. Then I realized that, hey, I didn't have a costume on so I still have all my manueverability and coordination, as opposed to all the other kids with clunky costumes on. So, I waited in the dark for some unsuspecting soul with a huge robot costume on or something, snuck up behind them, wrestled their bag from them and ran. I would lose them about the third block, and circle back to my house, depositing the bag under my porch. I only had to do this about four times to get a good amount of candy. It was great! No work that Halloween.
Subsequent Halloweens became less and less intense. I went as gangster, a door to door salesman, a hippy; whatever I had the means to make myself at the last minute. Thus is the history of Halloween in my life, and my second watchword became: Take the candy and and run.
Which reminds me; I think one year I was Dirty Harry...