Halloween Screams

I remember the first time I was going to go trick-or-treating for Halloween. I was four years old and my mom had bought me a black skeleton costume with silver sequined bones on the front that was probably next to invisible in the dark. It had a plastic mask that covered my face and had eye-holes that more or less lined up with where my eyes were. The material was some kind of filmy fabric that probably would have ignited in a warm breeze. (Kids in my generation had to be a lot tougher – or luckier – to survive). And I couldn’t wait to get out there and start hauling in my share of the loot.

When the moment finally arrived to hit the street I impatiently nodded my masked head at my parent’s reminders to be careful and bolted out of our front door like a greyhound out of the starting gate. The slamming sound of the storm door preceded by one and a half seconds the slamming sound of me colliding headfirst with the telephone pole in our front yard. I spent the rest of that hallowed eve tearfully laying flat on my back on the living room sofa with a large goose-egg and an ice-pack on my forehead while countless other kids came to our door for candy. I think the next year I went out as a cowboy.

I did, however, learn early on how important it is to think through a costume idea and I enjoyed the creative aspect of devising each year’s design as I got older until parents at the door started refusing to give candy to the big lug trick-or-treating with the little kids, no matter how clever the costume. The next year I decided to stay home and pass out candy in costume. My first customer of the night, a three-year-old girl in a white fairy princess costume ran screaming for the street and her father when I stuck my monsterized face around the edge of the door at her height. I felt really bad the rest of the night.

In later years when I was old enough to go to grown-up Halloween parties, complete with adult beverages, I reignited my creative muse and quickly added three important ground rules to future costume design: 1) I must be able to sit down while wearing the costume. 2) I must be able to drink while wearing the costume. 3) I must be able to use the bathroom while wearing the costume. Then, once I became a parent, I pretty much got out of the whole costume and Halloween thing. The world was getting weirder and I had more reservations about the underlying spirit behind the evening. We’d normally darken the house and take our kids in their costumes to “Hallelujah Night” at church.

Then, the Halloween after 9/11 I got to thinking that it was better to be out and involved in the neighborhood, and I started a tradition of setting up a firepit in my front yard and serving hot apple cider to the parents who, because of the way our house is positioned, could stand by the fire and watch their kids hit nearly every house around. Every kid that came by got a handful of candy and a “God bless you.” It’s become a popular stop each year since, especially in the years when it’s been very cold and windy.

Last year the folks at my office decided to have a dress-up day and costume contest for the first time. I struggled to regain my muse up until the night before when an idea finally dawned on me. A part of our Division had just been sold off to a company from Scotland. I thought that if I wanted to come up with something really scary, then I should dress up in full kilt regalia. A friend of mine just happened to have the authentic ensemble and let me borrow it. It was a big hit (see photo under “About” in the right sidebar) and I even won a prize. During the potluck lunch, however, I walked by a conference room were a number of our nurse consultants and our HR generalist were eating. The HR lady waved me in and said that she had been working lately on a new dress code, including approved underwear, and she and the group were wondering what… er, umm …a Scotsman might have under his kilt.

I may have blinked twice before responding, in brogue, “Ye mean tae tell me ye’ve no heard of the Loch Ness Monster?”

Great laughter and shrieking ensued, drawing a crowd as I slipped quietly away to the other side of the building … where I could still hear the additional uproar as the incident was recounted to new waves of the curious who had gathered in the conference room.

So, anyway, Monday night I’ll be out front of my house, tending the fire and passing out candy and cider. You can send your kids around, it will be safe. Just tell them not to ask any silly questions.

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