As it is the season of spooks, and specters, I thought it appropriate to share a Halloween story. Forgive me if you have heard this one before, but it’s one of my favorites.
Growing up, Halloween was always my favorite holiday. Behind Christmas of course. (Gotta give the fat man and the Christ child their due.) Although when I think back upon my years of Trick or Treating, it isn’t always with fond memories.
The first year I was old enough to go out alone with the other neighborhood kids was 1974. I was six years old, and I had decided that I wanted to be a ghost. In my mind I could picture my ghost costume, right out of Charlie Brown, a white bed sheet with two holes cut for eyes. I begged Mom to help me make the costume, and she obliged by digging through the laundry room, until she found a yellowed, thread bare old bed sheet that she was willing to sacrifice. I explained to her exactly how I wanted it to look. How it would fit over my head, and I would be able to lift my arms and look just like Caspar, only scarier. She nodded, and told me she knew just what I meant. Then she took her scissors and cut one big hole right in the middle of the sheet.
It was big enough to put my head through.
Then she explained to me that it wasn’t safe for a six year old to go trick or treating with a bed sheet over his head, and how this would help me see where I was going.
I stood there speechless, the tears welling up from deep within.
There was no way I was walking out that door with my head sticking through a hole in a bed sheet. I didn’t look like a ghost, I looked like the angel from the Nativity Scene. The kids were going to laugh at me. She suggested that maybe if I had a mask to wear over my face it would look better. So we dug around the basement for awhile until we found a tiger mask. So as the kids in the neighborhood gathered out in front of 20 Prospect, I set off with the Army Soldiers, Frankenstein’s, Cowboys, Dracula’s, and Planet of the Apes as the only Ghostly Tiger in the City of Batavia. Maybe even the world.
At every house we came to a little old lady would open the door and ask “and what do we have here?” then proceed to name each and every costume until she came to me. After an awkward silence, I would mumble “Umm… I’m a ghostly tiger”.
I swore right then at age six that I was never going to do that to my kids.
So when Halloween 1975 rolled around I had great hopes for redemption. This year I would have the best costume on the street. So the week before Halloween, Mom took me to Fay’s Drug Store to buy a fancy store bought costume. I looked over the Planet of the Apes, the Astronauts, the Frankenstein’s, and the Superhero’s and I found the best costume I had ever seen.
This was it! This was the one! It had a plastic Dinosaur mask with a snout that protruded like a Crocodile’s. I begged Mom to buy it for me, and she did! On the night of Halloween I sat at the dinner table, squirrely with excitement. That’s when Mom informed me that my Big Bruddah had a High School Football game that night at Niagara Catholic in Niagara Falls, and that we would have to leave early to go to the game so there would be no time for trick or treating with my friends. Instead, my sister took me to five houses on our street.
That night I rode all the way to Niagara Falls sitting in the backseat with my Dinosaur mask on, pondering the fact that Mom clearly did not grasp the concept of Halloween.
So for Halloween 1976 I turned to my Dad. That was the year of Star Wars, and I had gotten a toy light saber, made out of a flashlight and a hollow plastic tube. I wanted to be Darth Vader, so Dad put on his thinking cap, and then gathered up a pair of welding goggles, one of granny’s oxygen masks, and a toy German Army helmet, and took them out to the barn and spray painted them black. Mom even got into the act by sewing me a black cape, and letting me wear her knee high black leather boots. The night of Halloween I stepped out onto the front porch, flicked on my light saber, and started breathing like James Earl Jones with a nasty head cold. The neighborhood was in awe.
What followed was the greatest Halloween ever, as I spent 3 hours walking the streets of Batavia basking in the celebrity of an adoring public, until my pillow case was full to over flowing with sugary goodness.
I was Darth Vader again the next year.
Two years ago, when Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect wanted to be a ghost, I knew exactly what she meant. I went to bat for her and argued with Mrs. 20 Prospect that there was no danger or safety hazard in sending a nine year old out into the dark with a bed sheet over her head. It only took 34 years to get redemption.