I have lots of Halloween stories I like to tell. Here’s one.
Though my mother attests that I went as Punky Brewster for three Halloweens in a row as a very young girl, the first costume I remember was the Queen of Hearts. Maybe I liked her demanding aesthetic, maybe Alice was just too much of a wimp, maybe I just wanted a crown and a big ass dress and a scepter heavy on the hearts. At six years old, I suspect it was entirely the last.
My parents, being the clever and thrifty folks that they were, put a lot of time and effort into my costume and it was a secret to me until the day before the Halloween parade at school. While the other girls would be wearing flimsy plastic masks and store bought tunics that tied like hospital gowns over their school clothes, I would have an ensemble. I’d seen the crown my parents had made for me, adapting a New Year’s Eve party hat, hearts bobbing and glittered gold letters in my mother’s hand announcing my title. What I hadn’t seen was the sandwich board to be affixed above my shoulders, the Queen of Hearts painstakingly rendered by my dad, a damn fine likeness of your standard Bicycle playing card. I was mortified, but it was too, too late to do anything about it. My rebellion against the costume extended only so far as refusing to take off my jean skirt at the school parade, for leotard and tights or no, my modesty would not permit me to go about with nothing but cardboard and a layer of red nylon between me and my classmates.
In retrospect I find their efforts brilliant and wish I had the costume still, or at least a photograph of it. We made our costumes every year, later favorites including a ghost from a story I’d liked on Unsolved Mysteries, a gypsy draped in my mother’s shawls from high school homecoming dances, and, taking advantage of my wild hair in early adolescence, the Bride of Frankenstein.
My brother and I would run from house to house in neighborhoods much nicer than ours, always prepared with two pillow cases for when the first one became full. No paltry pails for us. I had no patience for cousins when we suffered trick or treating in groups, when they became whiny or tired or refused to commit to our breakneck speed. Clearly, they did not understand that we had only three hours to acquire as much free candy as we could. Each street we failed to visit was one less house with a fog machine and grave stone dotted yard that we would miss, a teenager leaping from a leaf burial to make us shriek, a porch veiled in black garbage bags promising mystery. And candy. Did I mention the candy?
Halloween always was and still is my favorite holiday. What’s yours?