Mom dreaded Halloween when my brother and I were kids. On the one hand my brother, Kevey, could always be conned by Mom into "being something easy." He was a ghost every year of his young life. But unlike most ghosts, he was never completely white; in fact, he was always the ghost that by coincidence happened to be the color of the sheets that were earmarked for the Goodwill donation bell.

I recall one year in particular when he was a pink satin ghost with butter stains. He didn't seem to care. "My ghost suit smells like popcorn!" he gleefully albeit stupidly proclaimed, running down the hallway in nothing but a pink satin sheet and Underoos. But hey, as long as he got to trick or treat, it didn't seem to matter much to him what he was dressed up as. It was all about the candy.

For me, however, no bigger decision was made all year that was more important than what was I going to be for Halloween. It had to pass my muster list of Halloween Costume Absolutes: (1): It had to be creative. (2): It had to be something or someone that I wanted to be; not Mom. And (3): (which was the most important one), my costume had to be better than anyone on the block, including that Shelly Tuttle.

I also, under any circumstance, did not want to end up like my brother.

Mom and I would start the costume dance around the middle of September. She would ask me what I wanted to be for Halloween and I would tell her I wasn't sure yet, and every year she would ask me if I wanted to be a ghost. "How about a beautiful, lemon colored ghost… Yellow would be lovely with your hair, Bethy." "Mom," I vigorously protested, "you wouldn't even see my hair if I had a sheet on." The Halloween arm-wrestling would end with me telling her I would think about it and get back to her.

Her follow-up tactic was for her to spirit me away to our local Zody's in a lame attempt to interest me in the costume-in-a-box displays. I loved the smell of Zody's, with its stale buttered popcorn combined with the rubber of new shoes. I'm assuming at this point it was Zody's, and not my brother that was responsible for the signature odor that would hit me when the doors whooshed open to reveal Hong Kong costumes piled to the ceiling.

"Zody's always has such a nice selection of costumes, don't you think?... How 'bout this one?" She grinned as she held up the rectangular Tomy's box with the clear plastic see-thru panel and revealed a somewhat formed plastic mask with two eyeholes in it. The molded plastic yellow hair looked like no princess I had ever seen. At least I think it was a princess costume. The masks resembled the horror films that my cousin Donovan watched every Saturday with his creepy pals. They all look ugly and fake. (The costume, not Donovan and Company). Nope, I was afraid my costume had to be the real deal.

Meanwhile, my brother was eyeballing a GI Joe costume box. "Put that down, Kevey. You're going to be a ghost, remember?" Mom took Kevey by the hand and directed him toward the color books.

"I don't see anything, Mom," I bellyached. So we would leave Zody's with a big bag of salty popcorn-like stuff, and Kevey's new coloring book. It was a definite sign that he was going to remain a ghost if he was rewarded in advance with a new color book.

"I know what I want to be," I announced at the dinner table that night as Mom separated the candy corn into pumpkin and tarantula bowls. "I want to be… Pippi Longstocking." Dad didn't say a word; just kept reading his Herald-Examiner. He knew that this would be my obsession for the next four weeks, and would have plenty of time to comment as the big day approached. Mom just groaned. "Why can't you be something simple, Bethy? Why not a clown or a hobo? How about Captain Kangaroo?"

Dad looked over the top of the paper. "Yeah, Captain Kangaroo; you wouldn't have to shave for a month." I just rolled my eyes. They had no idea how important the pronouncement of the costume was.

Next was the mandatory Mom guilt trip.

"Why can't you pick out something normal? Why the theatrics? Pippi Longstocking! She's a book character. Nobody goes as book characters!" She just didn't understand: This was my one chance a year to pick out fabrics, dream up my own creation, and be different than everyone else.

Mom finally relinquished, like she always did. Then she would shift gears, jump on board, and get all excited about making the costume genuine for me. We went to the fabric store and picked up wire to thread through my hair in order to make it stand straight out, in true Pippi fashion. She made me a dress like Pippi's, complete with the huge patches. We even searched high and low to find a plastic monkey for my shoulder.

I was so excited on Halloween night as I armed myself with a pillowcase ¯ they held the most candy ¯ and waited for my brother to make his ghostly appearance from his bedroom. Maybe he would be the lemon colored ghost this year. Then I saw a four-and-a-half-foot lump appear before me draped in a floral print sheet with two eyeholes.

Well, this was a first. This was a new low, even for Mom. "Are you kidding?! He looks like Grandma's tablecloth!" Kevey smiled, "Hey, Mom! She guessed what I was! She guessed what I was!" Mom just grinned. "He didn't want to be the yellow ghost this year, so I asked him if he wanted to be a tablecloth."

"Come on Kevey," I sighed, in a display of sympathy for my little brother who knew not that this would probably become the incident that would be responsible for years of psychiatric bills later in life. Oh, well. Candy was the focus, so I cast all thoughts of Kevey's future mental issues aside and headed for the chocolate.

I would fill up my first pillowcase with Kevey in tow as we visited all the close neighbors. Then I'd embark on a second round with my friends in a radius that encompassed as many homes as we could possibly handle in one night.

One of my school buddies, Davy, dressed as the Green Lantern. The problem was he didn't look like the Green Lantern at all. He looked like a masked booger.

To me, the excitement of Halloween wasn't all about the candy. It was about dressing up as a favorite character and waiting to see the people in the neighborhood offer their admiration as they recognized the perfection of my costume. I was, therefore, quite devastated when no one seemed to be able to figure out who I was. How could they not know? My costume was perfection personified.

But one person did recognize my well-drawn character, and that person made all the difference.

Mrs. Crosby was my teacher and told the class that she would be dressing up as a nurse for Halloween, and to make sure to drop by her house. When we arrived at Mrs. Crosby's door, she looked me up one side and down the other, and without missing a beat said, "Bethy, you should win an award. I have never seen a Becky Thatcher quite like that." My face fell. "I'm not Becky Thatcher, I'm…" Mrs. Crosby laughed, "You're Pippi Longstocking! I knew it all the time!"

Mrs. Crosby invited us in, and true to her word, was dressed in a white cap and real nurse shoes. She had made up special treat bags for us, complete with Halloween pencils and homemade pumpkin cookies that were still warm. As we headed out the door, Mrs. Crosby gazed at Davy and after a moment or two finally gave up. "I just can't guess what character you are, dear?" He was crestfallen, and I knew how he felt since I had experienced the same blank looks myself the whole evening. Davy finally shrugged his shoulders and smiled, "I'm a booger Mrs. Crosby. A big, green booger."

That was one of my last dressing-up years. Now that I have my own children, I can see that my littlest exhibits the same need to be different. She cornered me in the kitchen one morning to and announced that she was going to be Shirley Temple. Shirley Temple? Where did she get that idea? How am I ever going to find a white polka dot dress with dots that big? And the hair; is she crazy?

And I know just as sure that I'm going to go grab my sweater and take her to the fabric store. Maybe I can use fabric glue instead of sewing it. It would be much faster, and maybe I'll find her some tap shoes to go along with the dress and the hair. She's going to be the greatest Shirley Temple ever and very likely the only Shirley Temple in the neighborhood. And just as likely, few will recognize the character, but she won't mind a bit. She knows what she wants. Yep, she's my daughter.

Author's Bio: 

Beth McCain is an author and writer in an array of genres.
Beth, and her husband Lee, are instructors and lecturers in applying the Law of Attraction in everyday life.
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