Sometimes I think that my sleepy childhood town had to have been THE most pitiful city in America on Halloween night. We sure didn’t know that at the time, though.
Like all children across America, every Halloween the kids in my neighborhood dressed up and went door to door. We, however, all really believed that we looked FABULOUS, exactly like the picture in our mind’s eye of the costume we strived to duplicate. But the actual execution was far different from the idea.
We used sheets for capes or ghost covers. And let me tell you, those were some very sorry looking ghosts! Because no mom in her right mind would let their child cut up a perfectly good sheet, the sheets that we were allowed to use had to truly be rags already, some with paint smears on them. So those were some truly shabby ghosts, and not the shabby chic kind.
I was lucky in that my mother was an excellent seamstress and so could sew some great costumes. The down side of that was that we had to make sure that we found some very inexpensive fabric for the costume. We also had to plan WAY ahead for that: after all, with five children in the house it wasn’t like she had a lot of spare time to whip up Halloween costumes! And what child really planned their costume more than three days before Halloween night anyway?
My mother, unfortunately for us, did not wear a lot of make up. Because back in those days they didn’t have all the fancy Halloween makeup that they do now, mom’s makeup was the only thing that we had for our faces. Subsequently, we didn’t usually plan a costume that needed lots of face paint. One year, though, one of my brothers went as a vampire and got the brilliant idea to use red food coloring applied directly to his face for the fake blood. The voice of experience will tell you NOT to ever do that, because it doesn’t come off easily. For almost a whole week he went to school with his fake bloody face, no matter how hard he tried to scrub it off. And let me tell you that we could hear his howling through the bathroom door when my mom went in and tried helping him scrub it off!
Our house always looked like a tornado ran through it the night of Halloween. Closets were ransacked and emptied into the rooms or hallways. Crayons were strewn about the house, next to cut-up cardboard. Glitter and glue was stuck to the dining room table and doorknobs. Oatmeal was dumped into large bowls in order to use the round box. By the time we all trooped out the door, my mother was a wreck. Though she did not drink, I tease her now about pouring a stiff whiskey after we all left the house, as she had about three hours of peace and quiet before we came home on a sugar high. The havoc and devastation must have taken her all night to correct.
Off we all went into the night, our ragtag gang of ghosts, goblins, and ghouls, comic book characters, or marching band players, stomping all over our neighborhood. We didn’t know that we looked like goofs in our crayoned oatmeal boxes, ratty sheets with smears of paint, and messy sequin-glued shirts dug from the rag bin. We didn’t realize that we were actually CLOMPING around because we either had boxes on our feet or our father or mother’s shoes on. No one fell behind the group because, since almost ALL of us had these horrendous things on our feet, all of us moved at the same slow and stumbling pace.
The opening of the front door and the usual question, “What are YOU tonight?” wasn’t as rhetorical as it is now. I think that they really couldn’t figure out what we were!! I was so naïve that I thought they just wanted me to proudly announce what I was!
Is it an accident that there are absolutely NO pictures of us dressed in our Halloween finery? Back then it was expensive to have pictures taken: the film had to be bought (and it was not inexpensive), the pictures taken selectively, and the whole roll of film needed to be used up before you opened the camera, removed the roll of film, and drove it to a store to have the film developed and the pictures printed. I’m pretty sure that my mom didn’t want to ‘waste’ a perfectly good picture on our ‘excellent’ costumes. In those days a roll of film could last a full six months because she was very selective in her picture choices. So Halloween didn’t make the cut.
So I’m thinking that NO, it was not an accident that there is no evidence of our Halloween costumes, that it was calculated on my mother’s part to make sure there was no evidence of the fruits of our minds. A psychologist today might look at what we very proudly produced and wore out in public and mumble a subdued, “Hmmmmm,” thinking that we needed to get into his office within the next week, at the very least!
Copyright © 2012, Maura White. All rights reserved.