The only part of Halloween that I ever liked was the endless pursuit of free candy. From the time my brother and I were in middle school, we roamed miles from home. We walked on streets whose names I never knew, knocking on the doors of anyone with lights still on. It took us hours, and at times our pillow case sacks were heavy that we had no option but to go home, empty them out, then head out again.
I hated wearing costumes. Perhaps because I wore glasses, masks blocked my sight. I detested makeup and most of all, despised trying to come up with something to wear that could become a costume. My fallback was that of a hobo as all I had to do to play the part was put on my well-worn overalls.
When I was thirteen my middle school decided that for Halloween, all students had to dress in costume. I immediately panicked. It was bad enough to traverse my neighborhood under cover of darkness, but now I would have to parade about campus under the horrific glare of fluorescent lights.
I stewed over this for days.
I was a painfully shy, the girl who never raised her hand to ask or answer questions in class. I slithered down in my desk seat, my nose skimming the top of my desk, believing that if I couldn’t see the teacher, she couldn’t see me.
Dressing up at school had the potential to sink me even lower on the social scale, especially if I appeared in an unpopular or outmoded costume.
When the day arrived, the only thing I could come up with was my mother’s WAC (Women’s Army Corp) uniform from World War II. It fit a bit snug, but I figured I could tolerate anything for the length of the festivities.
In the morning I squeezed into the uniform, then trudged off to the bus stop. I was used to belittling looks, so the shrugs and smirks had little impact.
However, what seemed like a good idea in the morning, quickly became a terrifying experience at school.
My teacher, thrilled to see the old uniform, made me stand in front of the class and share my mother’s story. Unfortunately, I knew little about her service.
I pronounced that she enlisted because her family was poor, a fact. That she chose the WACs because her older brother was in the Army, also true. I did know, only because of the few black-and-white photos she shared, that she was stationed in Florida where she learned to work on trucks.
I figured that when my time was done, I could slink back into my desk. Not so. To make matters worse, my teacher sent me up and down the hall, into every single classroom, upstairs and down.
I was so terrified that I squeaked out only a few words, and wouldn’t have even got them out if it weren’t for the prompting of every teacher.
As the day progressed, the uniform seemed to get tighter and the heavy wool brought out as much sweat as a humid summer day. Perspiration pooled under my arms and down my face. It soaked the collar and the waistband of the skirt.
When lunch came, I was allowed to change clothes.
It was such a horrible experience that I did not go out trick-or-treating that night and for several years after.