One of my favorite holidays happens this week: Halloween.
Thanks to my mother, I grew up appreciating a really good costume.
When I was little, I remember a red fox costume, but it wasn’t much more than a red rayon jump suit and a fox mask. Most other costumes I wore as a kid were much more creative.
My dad made me into a cardboard alarm clock on year. Another, I was a circus ringmaster, complete with a top hat borrowed from the funeral director who lived across the street (Yes, undertakers still occasionally wore top hats in my day!)
I was an ultra realistic scarecrow when I was about 9 years old. My mother not only crafted a terrific outfit, but mail-ordered excelsior — a kind of straw — to stuff into my cuffs, sleeves and neck. I think I may have won a Cub Scout Halloween costume contest with that one.
I was Count Dracula one year, with pale skin, slicked back hair, fangs, blood stains on my lips and a lovely black, satin cape — once again, made by my mom.
Of course, my love of masquerade, so inspired by my mother, caused me pain, as well. I bought a great full-head mask that looked just like Bela Lugosi’s Dracula. I slipped it on and tapped my mom on the shoulder. It was so frightening, she turned around, saw me and punched me in the face.
My dad was in this, as well. I was an executioner, based on a Boris Karloff character, one year. He made me a great double-edged ax from plywood and floor molding.
Even in years I felt less than 100-percent, I’d get dressed up. The year I had a sprained ankle, I was a hunch-backed monster and limped door-to-door.
The year I’d torn muscles in my knee, I was a pirate on a crutch. See? I made the most of a bad situation.
I grew up in a neighborhood that was lucky enough to have a house that pre-dated today’s commercial haunted houses: There were coffins and rats and monsters and dry ice smoke swirling everywhere and we’d pass through the house being scared to death.
So, when we were 14, we decided to do our very own haunted house in Jimmy McHugh’s basement. A creepy guy in a gorilla mask escorted a few kids down stairs, where they were met with a packing-crate coffin. Inside was Dracula, who slowly rose to menace the visitors. As they backed away from the vampire, they’d bump into me, the mad scientist, who was working on a Frankenstein’s monster on a table.
They’d somehow get past us, backing into the corner, where, from behind a curtain of bedsheets, would stumble none other than the Mummy.
The screams were loud. The fun was immeasurable. Plus, we were 14 and got to chase 14-year-old girls around the basement. How could life be any better?
As an adult, I used to answer the door on Halloween wearing one of those black hoods that cover the face, giving the impression of a headless person. That, combined with my incredible horrific howl of demented laughter, scared not only Trick-or-Treaters, but their mothers, so my Closest Companion suggested I give it up.
This year, to avoid direct contact with kids who may come bearing germs to my chemo-affected self, I won’t be answering the door until my Closest Companion gets home from work, so come a little later.