Isn’t it spooky how some Halloween memories stick in your mind and reappear at this time every year? Some of those memories, which may seem funny, were actually traumatic at the time. One of those, “back in the day” memories happened when I was seven.
Buying Halloween costumes was unheard of in my family. My sister and I had to make do with what ever we could find at home. Usually, this was a variation of a Hobo costume, which consisted of Dad’s overalls and an old flannel shirt. This particular year, I had come into possession of a wonderful store-bought mask. The mask was a fox head, hard plastic and realistic-looking with long nose and tall ears. “Wow! This’ll be easy!” I thought. I found a long, blue cloth belt, pinned it to my jeans for a tail, and voila: a fox!
All was not as perfect as it might have seemed. The mask wasn’t made for a small face, so it was hard to center, allowing vision through the cutout eyes, even with the elastic string around my head. This meant that I spent most of the night holding the mask in place with one hand and clutching onto my paper grocery sack with the other. Mom and Dad also did not believe in buying special bags or dirtying Mom’s pillowcases for the occasion. To make it even more difficult, I had no choice except to go Trick or Treating with my older sister and older-yet cousin. The two of them had made an art out of “ditching little sister” in the past, and this night was no exception.
After dark, we gathered. Tail pinned in place and paper bag at the ready. Since we lived in Apartment Land, the three of us were dropped off in Grandma’s neighborhood and were to go up and down the streets to be picked up at her house at the end of the night. Sister and Cousin were given instructions to “keep an eye” on the fox. As soon as the car pulled away, they put their “ditch the kid” plan into action. Speed was the key. They could move much faster since they didn’t have to hold a mask, had longer legs, and were motivated to lose the tag-a-long fox.
Halloween was a test of endurance. How many blocks could you run, stopping house to house, carrying an increasingly heavy bag? Apples and oranges were very big as treats at the time. The fox mask created another problem. Running caused heavy breathing, which caused sweating inside the plastic mask. Stopping to take it off would have meant being alone in the dark. I was quite uncomfortable, not to mention sweaty, but I forged on. While running down the sidewalk, trying not to drag the paper bag so as to tear a hole in the bottom and have my candy scatter on someone’s lawn, I let go of the mask momentarily.
I didn’t slow down one bit, but I felt the sidewalk become uneven under my Keds: with good reason. A tree had taken root and grown up through the sidewalk. I don’t remember the size of said tree, just that when I hit it, blinded, bearing down on it at full steam, it knocked the fox backward onto the ground. Sister and Cousin, doubled over in laughter. Meanwhile, the night became full of stars, white ones, dancing in my head. The bloody nose which ensued put an end to Trick or Treating for that year.
There was, however, some justice to be found: Sister and Cousin had to carry my bag to Grandma’s. My tail was used to stop the bleeding, and I continued to hold onto the wonderful fox mask to be used another year.
My sister and cousin still find the image of me running into a tree and almost being knocked unconscious pretty funny. I can see the humor, 50 years later, but also learned a valuable lesson about face paint.