George in his infamous Headless Man Costume
Once upon a time, there lived a little boy named George, whose favorite holiday was Halloween. So great was his love of that spooky night that even before the current year's festivities were complete, he was busily planning his identity for the following year. In a day and age when most most costumes were simply cheap, "step into, tie at the neck" outfits with plastic masks that hung on the head by a rubber band, our hero would devise elaborate masquerades that took months and months of planning. With that kind of organization, how would it be possible that his holiday could be anything other than perfect? But somehow, year after year, fate would intervene and the evening that began with so much promise would end in disappointment.
Take for instance the "Zorro" year of 1968. "Beggar's Night" had been moved to an afternoon, for the safety of children in the city. (The reason for that is another story. Much too sad to add to this "light-hearted tale.) But, George wasn't going to let that stop him from having a great Halloween. He had a clever costume, complete with a chalk-capped sword that would allow him to write a "Z" wherever he visited. Of course, the sword was so wobbly that in order to make the mark, he would have to hold the end of it like a pencil, but, it was still pretty cool. He put on his cap, his mask and finally, it was time head out into the world to collect that candy treasure. There was just one problem. Another boy had decided that "Zorro" was the perfect costume as well, and he was on the same route as George......and just a few minutes ahead of him. Several houses refused to give him any candy because they said he had already been there. When he protested that he had not been to the house yet, the inhabitants told him that he was trying to fool them by coming to the house the second time with a group of other kids. Poor George. It really cut down on the food haul that year.
And then there was the year he was a skeleton. The little guy had barely begun his route when an "old lady" thought for sure she knew who he was and wanted to guess his identity. When he told her she was wrong, she didn't believe him and promptly tried to lift his mask. As she did, the mask broke, revealing that George had not been lying. Now, feeling guilty, the "old lady" tried to fix the costume so he could return to his begging. Against all his protestations, she continued to try to repair the damage. Much to his chagrin, the job took most of his candy hunting time. Then, to further ease her guilty conscience, she poured the remains of her candy dish into his bag to make up for the candy he lost. Of course, the fact that it was all the SAME candy certainly removed much of the excitement of the holiday.
As he grew older, the outfits became more elaborate and at about the age of 12 he reached his costume zenith with the incredible "headless man" design. With the help of his older sister, they created a head of paper mache', they stuffed every towel they owned into a coat to create wide shoulders, and covered George's head with a red hat to make a "bloody neck". He could barely see through the slit between the coat's buttons, but he knew he was looking good. With black gloves on his hands, he grabbed the treat bag and headed into the night with his "trick or treating" buddies. Things were going great and he was making a pretty good candy haul. The night was getting darker and it was harder to see, but he has having a such a good time. Finally, a Beggar's Night without any mishaps.... until. He noticed some people walking in front of him, so he stepped to the side. Suddenly, his knee his something hard. His already top heavy form was thrown forward over the immovable object and he fell right on top of a child in a stroller. As he struggled to get up, the little boy's mother began screaming, "GET OFF MY BABY!" Every time he tried to get off the stroller, the crazed mom smacked him with her purse. His trick or treat bag went flying and candy landed in the grass and street all around him. Finally, he managed to pick himself up. Slowly and in pain, he gathered together what candy he could find and managed to limp through the rest of his Halloween.
It wasn't only strangers that affected his joy of the holiday. One year, he decided it would be a great idea to be a giant bird. He painstakingly created this costume, piece by piece. He had everything he needed, except for the feet. Then, he had a brilliant idea for what he could use. His mother had the perfect pair of black boots. He had some "glow in the dark" paint. What a great combination! With skill and precision, he painted those bird feet on those boots. What made it even better was that the paint was barely visible in the daytime, but after being exposed to light for several hours, they would glow like mad at night! Something George's mother discovered several weeks after Halloween when she put on her brand new black boots for a night on the town and discovered to her dismay that in the dark of night she was sporting bird feet! Needless to say, it was a lucky thing that George even lived to see his next Halloween after that one!
In case you haven't figured out by now, the George in this story is my husband. Each year, as the calendar turned to autumn and our children began to plan their costumes for Halloween, the talk inevitably turned to the Beggar's Night's of times passed. No matter how many times they heard the stories of their father's trials and tribulations, they still found them funny. They are part of our family's story and a part of Americana as well! I hope others will enjoy them as well.