Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ahoy Matey!


It’s been years since a ghostie or goblin or even a PowerRanger has darkened my doorstep; longer still since I’ve been one myself. But night falls earlier now, and a chilly wind is blowing. It’s almost time for the spirits to be abroad.

I remember only one Halloween night that every child on my street did not meet after supper to begin our siege of the neighborhood. Usually we planned our costumes for weeks before the 31st, discussing the disguising properties of masks over face paint, homemade outfits cobbled together from whatever we had or could pilfer from our parents’ closets versus store bought costumes we’d have to talk them into buying. But this one particular year, the year I was eight, a town party was planned, and we were all expected to attend.
When a ritual is interrupted, something changes. In previous years the matter of my costume was left up to me. This year, because of the party, and because the party had a theme, I was forced to narrow my choices. Children were obligated to dress as a book character.
When my mother told me this, my first thought was to be a pirate, a la the mustachioed, swashbuckling Captain Hook from Peter Pan. I was practicing my “Ahoy, Matey!” and swinging an imaginary sword over my head with gusto when she dropped the other shoe. I had to be a girl from a story.
There is nothing worse than having to be what you already are on Halloween. The one night I could be anybody or anything I had the imagination to disguise myself as lost all its magic. That settled it. I wasn’t going to any adult-planned Halloween party. I would go trick or treating by myself. I would be a lone hobo, face blackened with a burned cork, a mop on my head for hair, one of my father’s shirts buttoned over my own.
“Who are you going to get candy from?” my brother asked. “Nobody will be home.”
I hadn’t thought of that. Bad enough to have to tromp the street in the scary dark all alone. Worse still to do it for nothing.
The night of the party, my brother appeared as Captain Hook. He wore a black patch strung over one eye, a tri-cornered cardboard hat, and a large metal hook screwed cleverly into a cork projecting from one sleeve. I was in one of my school dresses, complete with white tights and my Sunday shoes. The only concessions to costuming were the two bright circles of pink painted on my cheeks and a braided wig of yellow yarn on my head. Alice in Wonderland had never looked so forlorn, I’m sure.
That may have not been the last town party, but it was the last one we ever attended. The next Halloween saw half a dozen ghosts, hoboes, and zombies (and one swashbuckling pirate) armed with paper sacks, knocking on neighborhood doors.

for Magpie #38

28 comments:

Kelstahz said...

Good for you! What an adorable magpie.

Gary said...

I saw the title of this post and thought "great minds..." (if you check out my lastest you will see why).

I think you would have made a grand pirate. Ahoy!

Brian Miller said...

ack...seriously...who would steal halloween with a silly party...thats un...un...un-whatever...it should not happen...smiles.

Mary said...

Good write! Parties aren't half as fun as trick or treating! (Costumes or not.)

Barbara said...

I just came here from Gary's post and was surprised by the pirate theme!

I always liked the homemade costumes the best. I do remember the year I had a hula skirt and the weather turned cold. I also remember that no one ever worried about things like apples laced with razor blades back then.

anacronk said...

Yay, you got to be the pirate! :)

Kay L. Davies said...

I can just picture the depressed Alice, not in Wonderland, but at an adult-planned town party. That town PIRATED all the fun out of Halloween.

kathi harris said...

Luckily they just spoiled ur fun once.

christine said...

Your post took me back to the days when one of my sons was draped in a sheet, with red dye in bloches on it and a cardboard axe quivered on his head.. such fun they had.
Thank you for the memories through your writing.

Diane T said...

Thank you for the remembrances... I had a Halloween party too...

deb said...

oh, Pauline, feeling crushed along with you.
those were pretty restricting rules for imagination, not just loose parameters. Silly town people. Glad it was a short lived idea .

Molly said...

Aw, no fair!! I bet you had much more fun the next year slashing your sword about!

willow said...

Arrghh Matey!! Charming Magpie.

Pauline said...

Thanks all - that was a long time ago but funny how you remember such details. I refused to read, or even like, Alice In Wonderland for years after. I'm a great fan of letting kids be kids without grownups planning every last move.

Tabor said...

When adults try to make things more organized and safer it DOES take all the fun out of it.

Ruth said...

A wonderful tale! I like reading about your little rebellious self.

Judith said...

Well, I take the feminist POV on this post: I'm with you, Pauline! (Although I love Alice and see her as an incipient feminist.) Why did you HAVE to be a girl? Because that's what THEY said you did, and were, world without end. And it meant dresses and rouge and all that stuff --- Of course you wanted to be a pirate! I wanted to be the shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers ---

Frank Baron said...

I would have been crushed too. But I'm sure that particular Halloween helped you appreciate the ones that followed all the more.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Nice job, but I'd rather go trick or treating.
Happy Halloween, jj

Friko said...

How sad.
Couldn't you have been at least a wicked witch?
They were female, as far as I recall.

umapoems said...

Nice story of the party and the halloween...well written

Ruth D~ said...

Grrr... I feel your angst even after all these years.

Rene/ Not The Rockefellers said...

grrr...parents ruin all the fun with their carefully planned and structured events! :)

Tumblewords: said...

Darn. And the whole town fell for it - but just once. I wish you'd been a pirate!

herhimnbryn said...

Ahoy me matey!

focusfinder said...

Costume note: on first reading I saw "a wig of yellow yam".

Kristen Haskell said...

I agree disrupted traditions are always unwelcome. It sounds like you had a great time as a kid :) Happy Halloween.

Caty said...

What a bummer to get your halloween stolen for an adult party! thanks for sharing this story