Archive for November, 2007

Hallowe’en

Posted in childhood, family, Halloween on November 1, 2007 by jv

The one memorable Halloween for me was the last before a storm wiped out most of the town and the first without Little James. We had no idea at the time that this was our last Halloween together, of course, so it seemed the usual silly self-important affair. Most of us were twelve or thirteen, the age when mothers in particular start saying over and over that you’re getting to old to go Trick or Treat but you still really want candy. Somehow the family waited too long before deciding on costumes, maybe because my brother had died earlier in the year, and I ended up a shepherd boy, Leon a mummy wrapped mostly in toilet paper, Weeza some kind of bug, and baby Danny for his first mummy1.jpgHalloween was a red-nosed hobo unawares with two or three black streaks on his face. My four-year-old sister’s costume consisted of a green sack with leg holes and arm holes, also two extra arms made out of pantyhose and furniture springs with cotton gloves dangling at the end. String attached the fake arms to the real arms and when Weeza picked her butt or reached for candy or smacked somebody, usually Leon, the fake arms followed suit and jiggled. On top of that she wore green makeup, aviator goggles, and a pair of wobbly antennas. Mama had wrapped real bandages around Leon’s head and arms, but bandages cost too much, she said, which is how he ended up in toilet paper over his chest, legs, and bathing suit. Mummy footwear provoked much heated discussion at the dinner table leading up to Halloween day, and it was Daddy who came up with the idea for putting a pair of his big old baseball socks over my brother’s tennis shoes.

The shepherd boy must be the sorriest costume ever donned for Halloween. Mama had a foggy notion of what a shepherd boy should like from all the Christmas plays she had seen over the years. But she had set her ambitions on a King David pre-Goliath complete with slingshot and a harp. The slingshot was easy enough to come by in the rural South, but the harp came at a cost. Daddy busted the back off an old dining room chair and laced twine between the fancy curved pieces, a chair Mama had been nagging him for some time to refinish as a kind of showpiece salvaged from her grandmother’s attic

“You couldn’t wait, could you,” she told him with a frosty blue stare. “Anything to get out of working on that chair. You’d rather burn down the garage.”

“Now darlin’,” he said, “you know I hated to do it. Was it my idea to make the boy King David? Was it my idea to have him carry a harp? I was just trying to please you, like always.”

All this while they were sticking corn silk to my face to make me a beard. Trying not to move my jaw I reminded them that David was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to, and nothing in the entire Bible talked about his beard, not until the twenty-first chapter of First Samuel, I looked it up, long after David’s shepherding days were over.

“I have been saving up corn silk for a month,” Mama told me. “Now it’s either you wear this beard or you can go Trick or Treat as a lion.”

“Or a yak,” Daddy suggested unhelpfully. The important thing was to keep Mama’s mind off the wrecked dining room chair, what he used to call her chair-loom, though never when she was around.

He had also made me a shepherd’s crook by splitting a bamboo stalk and fitting the top of a coat hanger into it. Mama worried that it looked papal, but the most embarrassing part of the outfit had to be my sister’s white bathrobe, which was way too small for me, in fact didn’t reach close to my elbows or my knees, and the flaps were held shut by one of Daddy’s old holster straps over one shoulder and around the waist. And even though shepherd boys ran around barefoot in sheep poop and in Nativity scenes, Mama would not allow any child of hers to tear up his feet walking at night where folks broke bottles and tossed lit cigarettes, so King David had to wear flip flops.

Mama rigged up a stupid headdress using a diaper and a gold band. Then they stood me in front of Mama’s sewing mirror in full regalia. The reflection still haunts my sleep.

Let me expand on the picture. I had got into my head—whether because misery loves company or to show Mama by example the folly of her ways—a shepherd boy needed a sheep. After dragging Mighty Bobo the Wonderdog from under the table, I stuck small clumps of cotton batten to his black coat with the same gum Mama and Daddy had used to glue the corn silk to my chin. A couple pumpkin stalks and a rubber band turned into a precarious set of horns, and I put two pair of baby Danny’s booties on the dog paws to keep Bobo from scratching off his wool.

“Why couldn’t Bobo just go as a black sheep?” was all Mama said.

“Like his master,” Daddy added.

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