By fifth grade no more walking Hexam Gardens right after supper holding mommy’s hand and a trick-or-treat bag almost bigger than I was. My mom didn’t even make my costume. I threw on my dad’s raggiest shirt and his work pants stained with WD40. I was a hobo like all the big kids, finally, cut loose to dash through the dark with the pack, buzzing every doorbell , opening my pillow case and snatching it back, laughing, tripping over my father’s droopy trousers, getting back up,and lunging towards the next porch light to catch the mother lode of free candy pouring out of every front door: Baby Ruths, Snickers, Butterfingers, Pay Days, Milky Ways, M&M’s, whole Hershey bars, Peter Paul Almond Joys, Coconut Mounds, Mary Janes, Mike & Ikes, Good and Plentys, Jujubes, Tootsie Rolls, Fireballs, Sugar Babies, and Sugar Daddies! Until 9:00PM when the last lady of the house said, “Isn’t it getting a little late?” And all that was left in the bottom of her bowl were a few puny lollipops and a roll of Necco Wafers. It was time to drag my loot home and display it on the living room rug. Let the sibling trading begin.
Me, “I’ll give you all my Mike & Ikes for all your Mary Janes.” I hated licorice.
My brother, “OK, I’ll give you two fireballs for a butterfingers.” Done deal.
Next day, I rolled a ball of hot cinnamon around my mouth all during math without Miss Spaugh suspecting a thing. And yet staring at the blackboard, I grieved. The one hallowed eve when every child could walk straight into the heart of the Big Rock Candy Mountain was over. Back to plaid dresses, saddle shoes and canned cafeteria ravioli.
I look back realizing that to pick a costume, to wear another’s identity, is to display our dreams. As a second grade gypsy I told the world I wanted to stand out from the crowd, like the rare and beautiful Mrs. Tupper. Ironically, standing out from the crowd is probably what caused her to flee her native Hungary during WWII and marry Howard, our Channel Six weather man. As Tinker Bell, I confessed that ordinary life is not enough. I wanted to fly, and with a wave of my wand, live in a perfect world where every little girl is a princess and evil is thwarted by a host of Prince Charmings. As Davy Crocket, how could I know that one day I would truly mourn the early death of my bosom friend, Amy, to breast cancer? As a hobo, did some pre-pubescent dawning whisper we are all alike, homeless beggars on God’s doorstep?
And yet dressing up is something we never outgrow. The year I was pregnant with my first child, I went to a masquerade as a Viking princess, sure that I looked as big as an iceberg. By the next Halloween, I’d slimmed down, and went to a party as a ballerina in my Aunt Wilma’s chopped off tulle prom gown. My neighbor went as Dolly Parton. Another couple came as trash men. To tell people in simple code what we hope and fear is never out of fashion. To be known and still loved is sweeter than candy.