Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ah ... youth

I think I was about 10 or 12. I grew up in a small town and my cousins grew up nearby. Our families had kids all separated by about 14 months, so it was like having another family down the street. My little cousin, Laurie (LB) is 2 years and 2 days younger than me, so we occasionally palled around.

This year we were going to T-and-T together. Keep in mind: small town 50 years ago where little kids are allowed to go out on their own and gather goodies. No grownups, etc.

My mother made all our clothes growing up. The only thing we bought was jeans and sometimes a winter coat. So of course she made our Halloween costumes. She had 3 girls and my aunt had 2, so they swapped patterns back and forth. That year I was a 1920s flapper -- a 'satin' (polyester) dress with 'beads' (really cotton curtain fringe with a few beads on it). Add Mom's 'mink' (squirrel) coat and some of Mom's high heels, a bit of makeup, and I was ready. I kept my winter coat handy (it was Iowa in October, of course), but could toss it off into the shadows as we approached the houses.

I don't know how she did it but that year my cousin had ... a Store Bought Costume. NOBODY got SBCs when I was growing up unless your parents were rich. If your mom couldn't sew, you used the old "sheet over the head, I'm a ghost" trick.

But Laurie and her Mom went to the J C Penny in town (or maybe Ben Franklin or Sears. Not sure) and they got a SBC for her. It was the oddest (almost scary) costume. Her entire upper body was one giant mask -- a giant plastic baby mask with curl on the forehead, big blue eyes, and pink cheeks. Imagine a baby's face about 3 feet round. The baby's 'legs' attached over her legs. The effect was ... almost grotesque. Of course, she could barely see out of the thing so I had to hold her hand. When the doors opened, people saw me and said, "Ooh, a flapper girl and ..." then they'd look at her, step back and go, "A giant baby. Oh. How ... cute!"

We usually gathered a lot of loot on our visits, but one stop was always memorable. The two 'ladies' there (they were probably 30) were teachers in high school. When we shouted "Trick or treat" they said, "Okay. Show us a trick, and we'll give you a treat."

The first year this happened, we were so stunned, we weren't sure what to do and ended up reciting poetry (I had a poem that I always pulled out when the occasion warranted). But we were ready for 'em this time. Laurie did a tap dance (imagine a giant baby doing a tap dance) while I played Chopsticks on the piano. Those women almost split a gut trying not to laugh. They swore it was the best trick they'd seen all night and we got the prize -- a small plastic pumpkin for each of us.

This was a Valued Prize -- we didn't get little tossaway toys like that all the time. I kept that pumpkin for years and years, finally losing it when I moved one of the 27 times I've moved in my life. But I'll never forget climbing the stairs to their apartment and plopping down to play at the piano while my cousin did a soft shoe shuffle in her giant baby outfit.

Some memories just stick with you, I guess....

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