LAYERS OF CLAY
I got mugged one time on Halloween when I was a kid. That’s not my favorite Trick or Treating memory.
Lots of folks get super excited for Halloween. They plan and party. Come for the costumes; stay for the candy. I mostly just wanted the candy.
The part about dressing up, about finding a costume? That was the obstacle, the chore required to get free candy. In my family we had little ambition to put together dynamic costumes and even less visual creativity to do so. Need a musician? We got you covered. Want to hear a song well sung? My people can rustle up some vocals. Looking for the written word? Check. But when it comes to the visual arts–of which costuming is a segment–we are doomed.
Fortunately, Facebook and Pinterest weren’t around in the 1980s, so we didn’t realize how much it mattered that we perfectly execute every last aspect of every last holiday. Here’s how costume planning went in my loving home.
Kid: I want to go Trick or Treating but don’t know what to go as.
Adult: Let’s go see what K-Mart has on sale.
Kid: Okay, or we could just rummage through that scarf and random crap drawer everyone always forgets about.
Adult: Don’t say crap.
So as you can see we did not distinguish ourselves in memory-defining dress up.
I recently asked my mom what I went as on Halloweens during my childhood.
She quickly replied, “Umm…”
I raised my eyebrows, pretending not to be considering my woefully undefined baby book. Being the youngest of three kids offers many privileges. Having every first memento memorialized is not one of them because your older siblings are too exhausting and how creative are you really going to get with a first word and/or step anyway?
“I painted your face like a cat for your first Halloween,” mom rallied.
Impressive, I thought. She’s able to run these forgotten events off in sequential order.
“That’s the only one I can think of.”
Fortunately our family photo albums are sequentially numbered. Starting in the 1860s. Seriously. We are also a history-loving people. My Aunt is uber-diligent in recording it all. Mom retrieved album #35, good ol’ 1982. And there we were, my sisters and I done up for some hardcore Trick or Treating in the Me Decade.
“What are we supposed to be?” I asked, squinting at the photo.
“I have no idea,” said mom.
“Is that a Richard Nixon mask?”
Now a professional historian, I resorted to my training and plied the special technique known as looking closer.
I’d like to pretend I was one of those cool Dead President bank robbers from Point Break, but this photo is a decade too early. The writing on the costume reveals all, however.
Yes, for Halloween at the age of four I was Tattoo from Fantasy Island.
For those of you born after the mid-80s, here is Herve Villechaize–who I literally dressed up like as a child–nailing the catch phrase he was famous for.
I have no idea what my sisters were supposed to be, but that was basically the fun of Halloween in our family.
US AT NEIGHBOR’S DOOR: Trick or Treat!
NEIGHBOR: Oooh! And what are you supposed to be?
US: Your call. Candy please?
Oldest sister Bethany is apparently a cross between Batman and Michael Jackson. As for the springy headband stars, just get something close enough to the side of your head and we were willing to pretend it looked JUST like Princess Leia. Costume experts simply have no imagination. And when in doubt, stick two sisters into one t-shirt and just see what happens next. Hmm. Now that I think about it, that photo may have been taken mid-punishment. Or as punishment.
“I remember another time when you were older and painted your face,” recalled mom.
I remember that one too. I mean, how many times do you get mugged beneath a dull streetlight during early adolescence?
Maybe it wasn’t so bad. I mean, the older kids didn’t punch me at least. This act of mercy may have come on account of my willingness to hand over my entire pillow case full of tasty treats in less time than it took the ringleader to say, “Give us your candy.” I’m certain I was with a friend that night who also got candy-robbed but can’t for the life of me recall which one. It’s like my stupid brain doesn’t even want to remember important details of humiliating life events.
For a few moments we stood, dumbstruck, as the trio of candy-jacking bullies skittered off down a dark alley. And right in the same neighborhood where I had just polished off a stellar four year career as paperboy. Before I even had time to decide how bad I felt about the whole thing, the kid came running back into the dim light encircling us.
“You’re Bethany’s brother, aren’t you?” he said and extended my loot back to me.
“Uh, yeah?” I forgot I had applied face makeup, but it couldn’t have been much of a masquerade as my gawky build stood out like a scarecrow in an empty field.
I took back my candy, and he was gone. I’m pretty sure the friend/acquaintance/random person standing next to me also got his hull back. We were apparently beneficiaries of sibling privilege. Maybe the hooligans had seen my sister’s intimidating Batman scowl.
At the end of the day, it’s not the costumes or candy or juvenile delinquency you remember most about Halloweens as a kid. Actually, I don’t really remember much of anything about Trick or Treating as a kid besides the CosFail and mugging.