I tried on a few Halloween masks at a store.
I don’t have a single picture of me in costume as a child. Rolls of film cost money then and we chose carefully what to take pictures of. But I did find this memorable costume mask which I actually wore. The Princess with the butter-yellow hair —and even then I wondered as to why ‘princess’ was never dark haired like me.
Costumes then, they came in boxes.
I also remember being this guy one year (glow in the dark, no less):
Back then, pop culture was not tied into everything. A skull and a princess are fairly generic, kids used to be ‘bums,’ cowboys, ghosts…
Nowadays, scads of things that’ll sit dusty as collectibles or end up in landfills, are made long before movies or cartoons come out- millions of things… everything from toothbrushes bearing the image of the character… to toys, clothes, figures and Halloween costumes.
I will never apologize or feel ‘less than’ for not being ‘up’ on pop culture. If it doesn’t interest me, I’m not going to ‘follow the crowd.’
Well… that’s not entirely true… I remember as a child, at least for a brief awkward tween while, thinking that if I did a culturally “accepted” thing, then I would fit in. As normal. Imagine that kind of thinking? Ha!
I remember this in particular: trying to create mischief on Halloween Eve, when I was in grade school, perhaps about 11 years old. This is the only picture I could locate of me at that age, right after my unruly horse mane hair was chopped and shaped. Dorothy Hamill time.
The night of shenanigans went something like this: My friend and I decided to walk downtown at dusk under the ruse of telling our parents we were getting a pizza. It only cost $5.00 for a small circle of pizza so splitting the difference between us was doable. We skipped the pizza this time though because we had other business to attend to.
Or… we tried anyway. I took a few eggs from my fridge and my friend swiped a few from hers. We put them in our hooded sweatshirt pockets and started off on our adventure, with a stop in the cemetery as was our usual route.
The first time we went into the cemetery we were perplexed and saddened when we did the math on many of the birth and death dates. There were so many babies and toddlers buried there, with their tombstones of lamb and cherub images. We were young enough to be unaware of the widespread influenza and smallpox epidemics in the 1800s and also young enough to be naive about mortality. In a word, finding so many of these graves was: shocking.
There was an area over the far bank, where “old” flowers were dumped. These were flowers, apparently wilted and almost dead, that had been cleared from graves and dumped here. There were many faded bouquets of plastic flowers too for some reason. We collected them in bunches and put them on the children’s graves. Then off we went. It was Mischief Night and were ready to partake.
It was dark. We had a target house in mind and planned on throwing a few eggs at the cellar door where we figured it would be fairly easy for the house owners to clean up the next day.
(Here is my best recollection, my book has a more detailed account because it was written directly from diaries).
What rebels we were. My friend reached into her pocket and pulled out an egg. Her first throw was way off mark. Nowhere near the house.
My turn, I no sooner pulled an egg out, than I dropped it, right on my sneaker. Mind you, I wasn’t an egg eater, still don’t eat them, (not with a fox, not in a box) so that was pretty disgusting for me. Her turn.
She reached into her other jacket pocket for her last egg when she called out “Ew! My egg broke in my pocket!” I was on my last egg. Better make it count.
I did not make it count. My egg went somewhere into some bushes or something.
A bit discouraged that our mischief had failed, we cut through the back lot of our old brick school, which was no longer a school and not yet the office building it would eventually become. The former school had originally been built in the 1800s and now stood empty, in limbo.
We had the idea to try one of the doors. Locked. But we tried a door around back. It was unlocked. We didn’t dare turn on a light until we got into the “lavatory.” I wanted to check out the old bathroom with the long rows of hunter green stall doors. And I found what I was looking for on one of the walls. It always made me laugh.
A few years before, when I’d been a student there, I’d scratched the word “poop” into the paint. This was my idea of flipping off authority. I told you I was a rebel-rouser. Of course I’d thought “poop” was spelled “poup,” like the word soup… When I found out the correct spelling, I corrected the “u” to form an “o.” Once a pedant, always a pedant.
I scratched a tally mark into the green paint.
We flipped off the light and went quietly up the stairs to a classroom, which, like all the others, had a cloakroom with hooks for coats which was behind a wall of the room, with an opening on either end to enter. In the cloakroom was also a kitty corner art supply closet that I remembered as smelling blissful. The “cloakroom,” was really a narrow dark hall of sorts, behind a wall, where we would dump boots and coats, with an entrance on both sides.
We tiptoed hurriedly inside it when we heard what we deduced must be the night watchman. He must’ve heard us and was checking the place out for intruders. I pictured my self in the striped attire of the cartoon felon in my mind’s eye.
We closed our eyes tightly and breathed quietly, remaining perfectly still in the shadows, huddled into one another. I dared open an eye as we cowered in the dark cloakroom, and made out the flickers of a flashlight beam from the classroom, devoid of desks of course. It had the familiar radiators under the tall windows, a fire escape door, and shining wood floors that we could hear the man treading on, with surprisingly loud echos.
We heard him walking around a bit, some keys jingling, and after he’d departed, and his echoing footfalls descended stairs, we came out of hiding and proceeded to quietly go downstairs ourselves and leave the school. We felt ourselves lucky he had not gone into our hiding place.
We’d gone into the school at least 5 times before, (scratching a tally mark in the bathroom stall each time, to indicate how many times we’d gone in after dark, right next to the poop word.)
These marks so far, had kept track of how many times we’d not been caught. We had an affection for this old place, a nostalgia is attached to it that still pangs me to this day, when I need to enter the building in present – day to visit one of the ugly offices it’s old classrooms (minus cloakrooms) has become.
I digress -So it was time to make a hasty retreat. It had been close this time. As our hands reached the long bar to push open the door to the outside Autumn air, there were hands on our shoulders and a voice: “Stop right here!”
My first reaction was to recoil from touch, as I had had many “Me Too” ‘events’ by this time, but then the dread set in:
Uh-oh. I was going to Sing-Sing. (I watched a lot of Bugs Bunny).
He proceeded to tell us that “young girls did not need to be doing things like this” and to my surprise he gave us a warning not to ever go in the building again, and he let us go.
A quick glance at his face revealed to me something surprising. I couldn’t help but think he looked ‘relieved.’ I had the notion then, that he’d thought the school was haunted all these times he’d heard noises, and having caught us this time, he was relieved it wasn’t! We never ‘broke in’ again.
We ran giggling into a wooded area behind the school beyond the parking lot. The egg throwing had failed but we had managed to make mischief. What hell-raisers we were.
It had rained earlier that day and to our surprise, the area was full of small hopping toads. We decided to put a few in our pockets to play with at home. Halfway home, we decided to take out a toad or two and study them. It became apparent they were peeing. We removed the toads one by one from our pockets and every one peed on our hands. Our pockets felt and smelled terrible too. We let them go.
Nowadays, “mischief” takes on far different meanings than it did then. It’s like every day is “Mischief” night, (that’s putting it lightly) all over the world somewhere and each person takes it up a notch. The reality of what this world has become, is scarier than anything I could ever have imagined.
These days, I’m content to leave the light off on Halloween. It’s not that I’m a curmudgeon, or “too cheap to buy candy,” or a Halloween-hater. None of the above. In fact my family walks right in with their little ones; and I am glad to see them. They know that having the light off does not apply to them. I am just at the age, I suppose, when the disruption of the incessant doorbell (which sets off my dog to being startled and barking) is just too much and not partaking is what is kindest for me. I’ve been playing around with SnapChat. Here are a few favorites:
This is my favorite, and those are my real glasses, for the indecisive,, each lens a different shape.
These pictures are from Autumn walks. It is important to capture this type of New England beauty as the color is a short time and how easy to forget the vibrancy or worse, to take it for granted. Every season in New England brings something to wonder at. Lots of walks before it is too cold for me.
But back to Halloween, here are some images (Snapchat, Edits) of my beloved cat. Recent documentation I’ve found puts his age at 17 not 19 as I’d thought. He has stopped the seizures and still purrs.
He was a BIG part of my son’s life.
Anyway, I hope Halloween is safe and fun for kids and adults alike, in whatever way one chooses to partake, or not partake.
Kimberly Gerry-Tucker, author of under the banana moon text link