A Tail of Halloweens Past
Sitting here thinking about all the Halloweens of my youth. I've been a clown, a witch, Cyndi Lauper, Tweety Bird, a 1800's ghost, Cher, a cat . . . let me tell you about the cat story since it's fresh in my mind.
I was sitting in my fifth grade classroom when an invitation to a Halloween costume party flew down onto my desk. I couldn't believe it. For several minutes the invitation sat in my hand, and I read and reread it several times. No one had ever invited me to a real party before. I was sure all the other kids were used to the sort of thing, I knew it because they just tossed their cards down without hardly a glance. But I was scanning for the part that said, "Everyone is invited, except Amy." It wasn't there, so my next assumption was that the card had been handed to me by accident. But days went by and no one corrected the mistake. I finally accepted that I'd been invited—by default of course.
The night of the party Mom dropped me off at the front drive of a country house. "I'll be back in a few hours. Have fun, okay?" "Okay . . ." I followed another kid who had been dropped off at the same time to the back yard, where all the children from my class had gathered, unrecognizable in their costumes. I, wearing a black dance leotard, flats, makeshift tail, and pinned-on ears, had transformed myself into a black cat. Little black whiskers were drawn in swipes across my freckled cheeks for the final effect.
It was crisp outside; the air smelled of dead leaves and smoldering fire-pits. Trees on the horizon were shaded dark against a sky just spent of its dusk: electric blue with shades of purple. A few stars prickled out of their holdings, looking down to where I stood—nervous and typically quiet. I still couldn't believe I was an actual part of the festivities! But I took it all in, and didn't refuse the fun of bobbing for apples, eating popcorn balls, roasting hot dogs, and making chit-chat.
After about an hour the mom of the house came out and told everyone it was time to judge who had the best costume. She and her daughters walked around the party goers in slow order, and then convened to make a final decision. "The winner is the cute little black cat, Amy. We all love your costume!" I looked around in disbelief and listened as the other kids made noises of protest. Many of the boys expressed that it wasn't fair a girl should win; a boy should be picked as well and the prize should be shared. The mother shook her head. No, they had picked a winner and it was me. "But, but . . ." A big argument ensued and the sisters took me upstairs to their room away from the chaos. "Don't worry about the boys. They're idiots. You won fair and square. You can hang out and watch Dallas with us for a while, okay?"
I felt rather sick. The boys were still down there making their argument, and I just wanted to say that they could have the stupid prize if they wanted it. I wasn't used to winning anything; it make me feel so obvious. But the girls kept saying I'd earned it and should be proud, boys always got what they wanted. "You stay up here with us and let them complain, we're not budging!" Somehow my winning had become a catalyst for the feminist movement, and here I was no feminist at all. Here I was, a mouse in cat's clothing.
We were called back outside where a final, final decision had been reached: The prize would be shared. I looked up at the sisters; they weren't happy. And you know what? I wasn't happy. Suddenly I felt wronged, why should I share the prize? Just because they couldn't accept losing? Just because they weren't used to it? I'd lost so many times and this was my moment to win. A make-shift blue ribbon was crafted on the spot, and I received the original store-bought one. I accepted it with a smile despite the feeling of being slighted.
Perhaps I'll be a black cat this year in honor of that night so long ago, for the little girl who began to know what it is to stand up for herself, even if it was just a little.
I hope you have a great Halloween. Peace.