One fall, when I was about nine, I found myself exploring through one of those party stores that stock costumes all year round, and there it was. This cheap plastic hook with a bell-shaped cuff that hid your hand to make it look like it had been chopped off. That’s when I knew I was going to be to be a pirate for Halloween.
Understand, as a child, I was obsessed with pirates. I was into the other typical childhood things of the time; dinosaurs, Matchbox cars, Star Wars etc. But pirates were always cool. In movies, books, and games from swashbucklers, to scurvy dogs I was fascinated with all of them. One of my prized books as a child was a large slim book full of portraits and facts about the really famous pirates. One of my favorite video games ever was Sid Meyer’s Pirates, in which you got to sail the Caribbean as a privateer, plunder ships, duel with other sea captains and engage in other forms of skullduggery (There was an actual story line about rescuing lost members of your family from indentured servitude but frankly it didn’t seem that important my first couple times through.).
Halloween was still a ways off and I had to plead and whine at my dad to get it for me, but I convinced him.. We left the store with the hook and an eye-patch with a Jolly Roger on it. Then I had to wait.
From that moment all through October I chattered about my awesome costume. To my parents, my friends, to anyone who wouldn’t flee in terror from some overly enthused fourth grader, ceaselessly prattling about on about how cool it was going to be when he was a pirate. A striped shirt was acquired at some point. Some make-up crayons would be used to draw on a five-o’clock shadow, for that much-needed sea dog look. My dad was going to loan me one of his bandanna’s for my head. I spent weeks practicing my “aarghs” and “avasts”.
I was, to use the parlance of the time, totally stoked.
Then with less than a week to go, I did the unthinkable, the unforgivable. I struck my mother.
I don’t remember why. Probably some minor punishment for a petty transgression had set me into a fit of blind hot childish rage. Why wasn’t important. What was important is the fact that I hit her. Just like that it was all gone. I was grounded for a period of time that would encompass both my birthday and Halloween. I wailed, I screamed, I cried, and finally settled into moping. It was no use. Everything in my life had been ruined. Halloween, my favorite holiday gone. My awesome pirate costume, that had taken weeks to put together rendered useless.
I entered into a state of denial. Surely she couldn’t mean it. I mean she had to be bluffing, just to teach me a lesson. If I just am on my best behavior between now and Halloween I’d earn a reprieve right? May be I could barter my way out of it. Keep my room clean, take out the trash, maybe do the dishes every day for a week. There had to be some way.
There was a slender ray of hope when, the day before, on my birthday I was given presents. Clearly if I had been still loved enough to have birthday presents, I would be allowed trick-or-treating. When I started talking about my costume, however, I was quickly reminded the there would be no such joy in my life this year. Upon hearing this reaffirmation of my punishment the rest of my birthday took place in my room alternating between, sulking and sobbing with the occasional rage filled screaming fit.
I spent my Halloween that year either crying in my bedroom or sulking in my living room hiding behind the arm of the couch, staring in envious embarrassment as all of my friends from school, one by one showed up to ring the doorbell. Festooned in their holiday disguises and cheerfully yelling, “Trick-or-Treat!,” as my mother answered the door and patiently dropped pieces of delicious candy in their sacks and plastic orange jack-o-lantern shaped pails.
None of these costumes were as cool mine would have been.
The evening passed and the number of trick-or-treaters dwindled and finally Halloween was over. The hook and eye-patch got buried somewhere in the house, I never looked at them again. I don’t think I ever wore the shirt.
At some point I aged out of trick-or-treating. As I grew older my costumes for parties were always thrown together at the last-minute, or decided for me based on the need for a theme, or maintaining harmony in a relationship required a matching costume. Now a days, Halloween is about my own child’s experience, not mine. Plus, frankly, I don’t have much time, money, or energy to put into a costume for myself.
To this day though, I still feel a bit of sadness and a little regret each year to remember that I never got to be a pirate.
Happy Halloween, and as always Happy Monday.