Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Devil and Mrs. Potato Head

In one of my earliest Halloween memories, I'm five years old and already the kids are knocking at the door, even though my mother's only come home from work, and my father, too.  I remember that they took turns shelling out candy, while they scrounged up a costume for me.  I recall being disappointed when my father suggested they put his old coat on me so that I could be a hobo, then my delight as he lit a match and burned the butt of a wine cork to rub on my face--dirtying me up enough to satisfy my five-year-old sense of authenticity.  In my memory, crumpled newspapers are wrapped in a blue bandanna that hangs from the end of a stick I carried--although I suspect this is just my grown-up self filling in the details.  In actuality, I would have carried a plastic shopping bag.

By the time I was seven, I'd taken Halloween matters into my own hands, designing a devil's costume--my best friend was an angel.  I wore red shorts over red tights, and the same red turtle neck of my school picture that year.  I carried a big pitchfork made of tinfoil and wore horns of the same, attached to a hair band, as well as a tail safety-pinned to my bottom.

This is the last Halloween costume I can remember wearing as a child, although, of course, it isn't the last one I wore. I trick-or-treated well into high school and then there were parties and dances every year after that, right on through college and into my early years with Balthazar, when we dressed up as Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head.  I remember that year well: the trip to Goodwill, and the fabric store, and the hours we spent together on the floor sewing felt to foam.

I'm not sure why I can't remember my costumes of the fifteen years in between the devil and Mrs. Potato Head, but I suspect (because each year my parents had a little more money than the last) that these costumes that have escaped my memory were of the purchased sort, and not homemade.

Last week, two weeks in advance of Halloween 2012, The Storm and I went costume shopping for her.  She had a particular outfit in mind, one she'd seen online, and sure enough when we arrived to the party store, there it was on the wall with the hundred others that I'll see over and over again on my doorstep on October 31st; the hundred others that will make their way door-to-door across America.

But, since it was only two weeks until Halloween, the store was already sold out of The Storm's size. She tried on a slightly larger one--but it was too large.  She opted for a second choice, to the same results. And a third.  

"Why don't we go home and make you a costume?" I said.  The entire costume-shopping experience was becoming a bit of a Halloween nightmare: the aisles were overcrowded; children were throwing tantrums; the staff was miserable; and the bright fluorescent lights seemed to magnify everything, including the cheap quality of the overpriced satins and plastics.

"Maybe I'll try that one," The Storm said, pointing to a fourth choice, instead.

"Sorry," said another dead-eyed staff person.

"Well, I'll take that one then," she said of a little red devil's costume.

"I was a devil one Halloween," I told her.  "I remember it perfectly."  And I told her all about my big pitchfork of tinfoil. 

She wasn't really interested. 
I wonder if she'll remember those sparkly wings thirty-five years from now?  I don't think so.  

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