Along with being a movie fan, my mom is very, very, very competitive. One Halloween when I was about 8, our church was having a party complete with candy, games and a costume competition that my mom was determined to win. On the night of the party, I dressed in black and green lounging pajamas of hers, rolled up at the ankles and wrists, sat at the kitchen table while she slicked back my hair into a long braid she had fashioned out of nylons and a black scarf, and closed my eyes as she outlined them in black eyeliner. I had no idea what I was supposed to be and even less when my dad came in from the garage carrying a long, skinny wood slat with a rope tied on each end, from which dangled a paper bag stuffed with newspaper. He plunked it across my shoulders and my mom proudly turned me toward a mirror. I stared at my reflection, still without a clue. "It's from The Good Earth," she said. I had never heard of the movie and it would be years before I read the Pearl S Buck book upon which it was based. I am happy to say there are no photos of me in costume. We hurried into the car and off to church, only to find that we were late and the costume judging had already taken place. My mom was crushed, but I was secretly relieved. Balancing that stupid piece of wood across my shoulders was not easy, and I had dreaded getting up there with the fairies, the witches, the princesses, the ghosts. My mom spent the rest of the night telling people we would have won but we were late while I spent the rest of the night mumbling "I don't know" when the little witches asked me "What are you supposed to be?"
But the absolute worst costume is one I still shudder to think of. I was about 5 and when my mom called me into her bedroom, I was excited to see a cute, white, frilly dress laid out on the bed. I imagined I was going to be a fairy or a princess or maybe even a bride. I eagerly wiggled into the dress loving the way it swooshed around my ankles when I twirled. I looked at my brother, who was dressed in a jacket and tie and his Sunday shoes, and wore a sign around his neck that said "I Married a Monster from Outer Space". My mom held out my mask...a huge rubber monstrosity that fit over my entire head and from the top of which extended two long curved Tupperware iced tea spoons....yep, you guessed it...I was the monster. What my mom had not counted on when she devised the costume was that the adult sized rubber mask was not made for a child's face so the holes for the eyes were somewhere around my nose, the opening for my mouth below my chin. All of which conspired to make it impossible for me to do more than blindly stumble around after my brother, tripping up our neighbors' porch steps, while my breath condensed on the inside of the mask. After about half a block, I ripped the mask off, sucking in the cool night air, sweat pouring down my face and dripping off my hair. My dad looked a little horrified and suggested I not put the mask back on. "But then Buddy's costume doesn't make sense," my mom said, as if having your costume make sense was the goal on Halloween.
To her credit, my mom was an equal opportunity costume stylist and did not spare herself in designing impractical costumes. One year she went to a party as a TV set, legs and arms sticking out of a box my dad had painted to replicate our TV & then had taped her into, foil wrapped around her head with the dreaded Tupperware ice tea spoons of my childhood sticking up on top. My dad wore his everyday khakis and carried the remote control. She hadn't considered that she would have no way of sitting down in the box or going to the bathroom without completely undressing. I have no idea what happened to the box, I just know it didn't make it home with them.
I stopped Trick or Treating when I was about 11, content to hand out the candy rather than go begging for it. Around that time my brother started going out with his friends, looking for fun and trouble...and paying me 50cents to smuggle a carton of eggs or a package of toilet paper out of the house. All in all, not a bad deal when you consider I would have done it for free...especially if it meant I didn't have to wear a mask.
Me & my brother