December 2015: I Approach Masked

It’s the Holiday Season!


The holidays snuck up on me this year, managing to find me even though I tried to hide as best I could to ignore them in the hopes that they’d go away. Even so, I suddenly realized that I was getting into the holiday spirit when I was wandering around the grocery store last week humming “Monster Mash”.

Unfortunately, as it was now late December, this meant I missed out on all the good Halloween costumes available in stores. There was one bedraggled Bill Clinton mask that looked like it had been regularly marked down since 1993, but I passed.

(Too scary? Maybe.)

The thing about store bought costumes is they have a rather high mark of demarcation for quality- store bought costumes really don’t look good until a dangerously high amount of money is spent. Far higher than my bank account has ever reached, at least.

So for the most part, all of my Halloween costumes have been homemade.

The earliest costume I can remember having was probably around the age of of 3 or 4. I had a love for bears then, and I was given a bear mask and an adult sized, brown corduroy overcoat to wear. The next part I remember is arriving … somewhere .. and a woman asking me if she could take of my coat, and I reacted as well as a real bear being skinned.

A number of years passed before I would try the animal route once more. While going through a box of my mother’s things from growing up, a strange gray onesie was found. As it turned out, it was all that remained of a donkey costume from long before I was born. Two wonderful coincidences coincided with that discovery which led to my halloween costume that year: I was big enough (or the costume small enough) for it to fit, and I’d also developed a fondness for donkeys.

(Some would even say, an affinity.)

The original head long gone, my mother set to work making a new one. I’m not sure how long she spent, and I wasn’t allowed to watch, but somehow she managed to take a few paper grocery bags, some newspaper, and gray spray-paint and fashioned a donkey head that fit perfectly over my own. It even had big ears and a long nose, just like the real donkeys we owned at the time. Black gloves and boots finished the look to perfection.

I couldn’t see a thing out of the mask.

Either of the eye holes could be looked out of, but not both at the same time. Even then, the long nose dominated my field of vision.

Once again my mother came to the rescue, dressing my younger brother as a farmer leading me around with a rope.

(I don’t remember how either of us felt about this arrangement – it’s entirely possible we weren’t allowed to have any feelings about this arrangement.)

Halloween night, we went into town to walk in the Halloween parade. The parade was typical of small-town parades all over the country, with people winning prizes they didn’t deserve because they weren’t me. It especially stung that year, since I really felt like I was wearing a prize-winning costume, even occasionally making braying sounds.

Worse, my younger brother won the prize for “Best Cowboy”, when the only effort he’d put into his costume was putting on a straw cowboy hat. As it turned out, the prize he won was two hats, so we each got one.

(I don’t remember how either of us felt about this arrangement – because we definitely weren’t allowed to have feelings about this arrangement.)

During this time in my life, I had a pet ram. Not the most usual of childhood pets, but he had been bottle fed after being born and followed me around like the dog he thought he was. I decided one year that I was going to be Mary leading around my little lamb at school. I was in the fifth grade, and it was the last grade that still had holiday parties during school time. Once again I experienced a coincidence of my being big enough/my mother’s old square dancing dress being small enough that my costume was easily assembled. Even better, the dress came with a bonnet.

When the time came for all the students to put on their costumes and parade around the school before the festivities, my mother arrived with Snoopy the sheep, and the two of us walked around, certainly the sight to see.

Once again, I don’t remember winning any kind of award, though one was obviously deserved. Snoopy, however, was a resounding hit, even after he tried to eat another student’s costume.

My halloween costumes of the years that followed weren’t memorable enough to be anything more than forgotten blurs at this point. I vaguely remember trying to make a mummy costume in high school, discovering an awful lot of effort is necessary to make mummification bandages look convincing and even more effort is required to keep the bandages in place (which is probably why most mummies just lie around all the time.) On top of that, it’s also mostly impossible to mummify oneself. I would have had better luck crawling into a sleeping bag and going as a cocoon.

In college, I somehow ended up with a cow costume, udders and all, that served me well for a number of years, even though I never managed to work out a way for it to give milk.

But that really was the end of not only my animal-based costumes, but costumes in general for me. There were occasional exceptions, but considering how many of those costumes involved a black dress neither big enough for me nor I small enough for it that it’s probably best not to bring them up.

I doubt I’ll ever were a Halloween costume again, although that’s not to say that I don’t still have the little black dress, because I do. Rather, the older I become the less whimsical I am. No matter what Halloween costume a person chooses to wear, a certain whimsy is required to even consider dressing up as something else, and that kind of imagination requires more energy than I’m willing to expend these days.

Besides, after all this time, too many other people continue to win prizes that really should be mine.

I guess I do still have a little whimsy in me. A cow can dream, can’t he?

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