I don’t remember ever enjoying the part of Halloween where you get dressed up. It was so much easier when my mom made my costume and after when I would simply wear the hand-me-down bed sheet with the two holes in it. But after I grew too tall I had to come up with something on my own - something that would pass as a costume and yet not make me look like a complete idiot. So I put it off until the last minute. Then I scoured the house for articles of clothing and props that I could use and try to hold back the tears. I went through all the closets in the house and determined I could be Robin Hood (tights and a sweatshirt), a Cowboy (use my brothers old stuff), a Indian (paint my face and wear my macrama shirt and belt, both in at the time), a Ghost (oh not the dreaded sheet over my head again), a Witch (oops, no hat) or a,,,Hobo. Hmm. Got the flannel shirt, got the jeans, I could smear dirt on my face and make a bag out of another shirt and cut a limb off of one of the trees in the front yard to tie it to. Done! One year I remember trying to convince myself to go as a scarecrow. I put on a pair of sweat pants and a sweat shirt and tried to fill them both with leaves and attempted to put a stick behind my neck through the arm holes. It wasn't pretty. If I did ever want to go as a Princess I have forgotten it. Or blacked it all out. Even later, in college and after when there were Halloween costume parties I did want to go to I'd still have a tough time with it and either talked myself out of going or was part of a group costume like the Cone Heads or a Six Pack. So finally I declared that I was not a "Halloween Person" and henceforth would never go to another Halloween party, at least not dressed up, and killed Halloween.
That was about thirty years ago. I have recently returned to New York state and just settling into another close-knit community whose streets will soon be filled en mass with trick-or-treaters and I am starting to re-think how to handle this scary tradition, especially after I received an invitation in the mail to a party put on by many members of my husband's extended family here in town. I started to ask my husband whether we need to get dressed up for this event and at the same time I grabbed my phone and sent a text message to our daughter at college asking for dad costume ideas. Her reply was quick and to the point, "Shrek." How perfect! This movie is one of our family favorites and we giggled via our phones about Dad as Shrek and how he could just wear his own cloths and carry a few onions with him and tell everyone that, “Ogre’s are like onions, they have layers!” For me, I just thought I’d wear an old turtle neck I recently found while digging for warmer cloths. This one had pumpkins and witch hats on it so that would be easy and I wouldn’t have to fall into the stress pit again. As the days ran down I knew my husband was not about to wear a costume, at least not this year. And so about an hour before the party was to begin I started to get ready and of course the turtle neck seemed too hot, too confining and just too in-between. I mean you either get into Halloween and come dressed in a costume or you don't. None of this in between stuff but maybe if I toss on my new, black wool cape over a pair of black jeans I could tell people I was the “Caped Crusader.” Except I never told anyone once I got there and apologized for our lack of costumes and said that next year we’d surely come up with something. Argh.
Then as soon as we entered the large community hall we could tell why this was the party all looked forward to as it was immediately apparent that many had put their heart and soul into making this a memorable event. Every wall, table and ceiling tile was decorated, a dance floor was set up, a DJ was blasting rock and roll, an entire buffet laid before us, and a keg was freely flowing in the back. There were some glorious get-ups as well. Especially memorable were the sisters and their mom that went as The Golden Girls, which was perfect as they are the patriarchs of the family and the main hosts of the event. And another of their sisters had her entire family dress up as the Brady Bunch and their kids performed for us famously the "talent show" episode to the show's theme song. And I must mention the Kardashian Girls were culturally hip and I admired the guts of the young man that came dressed as a women in fish net stockings and noted that he had better legs than many women I know. There were also a few folks that developed their costume ideas from pure puns. I loved the woman who wore a sign around her neck that said, “Go Ceiling!!” I had to ask. A Ceiling Fan. And her husband, Tom, came carrying a small window with a curtain. Peeping Tom. And the man that wore a box of cereal around his neck with a hammer gashing thru it. Cereal Killer. And the woman that attached a number of large, black “P’s” to her cloths and had a black eye. Black Eyed P’s.
So many amazingly creative families were having so much fun dancing and carrying on that you could almost see the baton being tossed between the generations. As I got up to fill my glass once more I knew that many grand and great grandchildren would be doing this long after we were gone and I sat back and began to rethink Halloween. Maybe, if I could just dig into my sense of humor and get someone to help pull a costume together, like maybe one of those punsters, I could find a way to bring Halloween back to life, relax and have fun with it. I'd have to ease my way in of course, but...oh my God, did I just say I was going to dress up next year? You bet I did. I have a lot of making up to do.