The tiny trick-or-treaters, stunned mid-sentence, could only step back and stare. Their parents would press forward just in case the need arose to swing into protective action. But it was all in good fun, ha ha! We kept lots of Snickers and Milky Ways in a large jack-o-lantern bowl, and never rationed the kids. It’s the least we could do to compensate for the confusion.
Now, that mask, wadded up and stuck to its latex self, jams a corner in a box in the attic along with residual spider webs, my witch’s pointy hat, and a life-sized, glow-in-the-dark plastic skeleton. It’s just as well.
Our claim to Halloween glory, my husband’s and mine, was the year we won the costume competition dressed as “Pat.” You remember Pat, don’t you? The androgynous character from Saturday Night Live who creeped everyone out because you could never be sure: Was Pat female or male?
Pat had short-ish curly black hair; so we bought wigs. Pat was heavy; so we padded ourselves – this was back in the lean days, you understand. Pat had breasts, though it was never clear if these were man breasts or woman breasts; we incorporated accoutrements for the illusion. Black horn-rimmed glasses, matching blue plaid snap-button western shirts, Wranglers, and boots completed the ensemble.
But the crowning touch was Pat’s wheezing, whining voice. My husband perfected it. He spoke for us both all night long. The voice, and the self-caressing gestures that made the judges cringe, blink, and pull away as though they’d just inhaled a big whiff of yellow onion, secured the trophy.
Aahh. Those were the days.
In my heyday, I dressed as Andy Rooney, the Living Dead, even punk rocker Sid Vicious – or at least someone he would have hung out with. One of my students spiked my hair in what he called a “Statue of Liberty,” and lent me his heavy black leather jacket. Ripped black nylon hose, chains hanging and safety pins everywhere; black lipstick and black fingernails. Man that was fun.
One year I wore a Superman costume complete with boots and cape. I flew all over campus that year. The kids loved it. Not sure what my boss thought when I attended a meeting at the District Office in full Man of Steel regalia. I felt powerful.
I kept the full-body panther suit handy and wore it for many years, whenever the mood struck me, not just Halloween. Where is it now? No matter. The moths have had their way with it.
It’s not important. The past few years, the number trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood have dwindled to single digits. We still stock up on just-in-case candy, but wind up sending it to my husband’s office the next day. The kids don’t visit houses anymore. They wear store-bought costumes prescribed by Hollywood merchandisers and patrol stores downtown or at the mall, moving from merchant to merchant with their parents, working a pattern for maximum take, minimum interaction.
Gotta be this way. I understand. Still…
Gone is the excitement for a teenager, face painted, costume pulled together out of mom and dad’s closet, carrying his pillowcase, and running through the darkness with his friends, thrilled with the imaginary world that’s only open once a year. This year, teens will dress like Snookie. They’ll buy false six-pack abs and make like “The Situation.”
The next step in homogenizing Halloween? Government takeover! Connecticut lawmakers have a bill pending that will move the event in that state to the last Saturday of the month instead of the 31st. OK. Why not? Civilize it. School nights. I get it.
But I’m not done. I don’t have to give it up. I’m not a kid. And I still have an Elvis in me. I’ve got a hankering to dress up like Elvis. I know. I should settle for Priscilla Beaulieu, but she’s just too easy. Anyone can tease her hair into a rage and line her eyes with a magic marker.
But Elvis. Elvis! Now that’s Halloween!