Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Halloween and the Ghost of Costumes Past

Ah, it's in the air - the smell of candy corn and melted chocolate and pumpkin pastries! It's 102 outside and there's not a breath of wind, but I can smell Halloween creepin' round the corner, its arms laden with spider rings, glow sticks, and toilet paper.

You know what it is? It's the fact that my kids have already been in school more than a month. It doesn't matter that it'll be hot as blazes here til late October, that autumn does not fall on this desert. From my childhood I have associated going back to school with a change in weather, a change in scenery, and the forthcoming parade of holidays.

My friend Kim throws a huge party every year. You walk into her home, and it is decked floor to ceiling with fantastic Halloween d├ęcor. I can't conceive how much effort it takes to get it to that point of spooky perfection, but just passing the threshold of her home is a treat. The kids always let out involuntary oohs and ahs.

Along with the kids, I admire my friend's flair for creating atmosphere, and I always dress up for the festivities. That's part of the fun, a whisper of a different time when adults went to masked balls and wore exotic apparel to escape the ordinary, and the children, for an evening. The mulling over ideas, presenting of options to friends, and the wondering about how much your husband will let you spend on a fling worn for one night (two if you wear it trick-or-treating) is all part and parcel of the excitement.

If I had unlimited funds, I would of course dress up as Elizabeth Bennet or Jane Eyre, elegant period clothing complete with bonnet and ribbons. But I would want to do it right, and my husband would never agree to dress in the top hat and period suit of Mr. Darcy or Mr. Rochester - though he would look so damn irresistible in them; I would have to speak softly and carry a big stick the whole night to beat back other women, especially if he wore something like Colin Firth's forest green jacket in the movie. So, fantasies aside....I must be a flamenco dancer, if not too dear, or dress as the quintessential 1940s or 1960s woman - any era, really, of the twentieth century. And I must lay a heavy guilt trip on, slyly convince, or plead with Matthew not to go as "a sensitive guy" - something he threatens to do every year by painting a big blue teardrop at the corner of his eye.

In years past I've had a fairly easy time of it. Last year, my eldest boy, Berto, went as Anakin Skywalker, so I was his daughter, Princess Leia:

Princess Leia
I decided to be the nerdy version instead of the sexy Leia. Yeah, yeah. Princess Leia didn't wear glasses, and her robe wasn't a satin lingerie robe, but details like that don't matter; I had the ear buns. It was gold, baby.
The year before that I went as a Wild West sheriff. I'm still a little bitter. I found a genuine reproduction badge of the AZ territory Tombstone sheriff's badge, and my husband wouldn't let me get it. It was too "expensive". Ah, well, he obliged me by dressing up as my outlaw. Too bad I cut the neck hole on his poncho too wide. He was an outlaw running from a bad tailor.
Sheriff and her no. 1 outlaw (photo by Kim)
My hat was from our honeymoon in Fredericksburg, Texas. The suede semi-duster I got for dirt and pennies and had for years, and the denim vest was borrowed from a friend. I go in for cheap, as you can tell, maintaining the time-honored, non-spoiled-brat tradition of digging through all the junk in your closet to compile something truly jaw-dropping.
Now (rubbing hands together) for this year! What shall I be? What can I convince my Man to wear? What will our friends choose as their persona for a day? The anticipation, like pumpkin-chocolate cake, is to die for.

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