••• Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Dog Days of October 

There she is. My Princess Cakes. Wearing a beautiful, store-bought Halloween costume, and a leftover Birthday crown. (The girl can milk a birthday, I'm tellin' ya.)

When I was growing up, my mom would have preferred death, over being caught doing the following: 1) Going out in public with rollers in her hair. 2) Allowing her offspring to wear store bought Halloween costumes.

Item #1 didn’t affect me too much, except that my mom seemed to yell a lot more, when she had the gray brush rollers in her hair*, and what with her refusing to leave the house and all, we were pretty much sittin’ ducks. But I digress.

*I always assumed that had something to do with the pink picks, which appeared to poke directly through the roller and into the scalp of her head. When I was very young, I thought that the rollers were literally pinned to her head. And for awhile there, my mom was both the bravest and scariest woman in the world.

Item #2. My mother was a most excellent seamstress, and creative to boot, which translated into some pretty cool Halloween costumes, over the years. Some of my favorites were Raggedy Anne, gypsy, ballerina, and a hobo.

My most memorable Halloween costume, however, was a dog. It was a one piece dealie, with a hood-like headpiece, floppy ears and detachable mitts. The fabric my mom used was the color of oatmeal, with the look of fleece, and the feel of car upholstery. It was stiff and stuffy, with no ventilation. Damn near bullet-proof.

Back in the glory days of Urban Education, everybody went home for lunch, even those of us who lived six to twelve blocks from the school. This meant, on Halloween, that we had 35 minutes to walk home, eat lunch, get costumed and walk back to school. On time.

So, it’s Halloween, in the year of the dog, and I’m home for lunch, to eat and get dressed. After wolfing down a sandwich, I put on my dog suit for the very first time, and decide that, despite the texture of the fabric, it's really a great costume.

As I head out the door, mom makes a last minute determination that the oatmeal is a bit bland, and commences to paint spots on my backside, with liquid shoe polish. Aubergine.

I really didn't want to be late for school, on one of the biggest days of the year, so I tell my mom that I really have to go.

"I'll walk with you, and finish up," she said, as she poked a knife into the spongetip applicator, to enhance flow mojo. We had only walked for five minutes, before she announced that I was officially polished off. ::Obviously, she’s not wearing curlers on this day. 'Cause, you know, she'd sooner be caught dead. But hobbling down the sidewalk, in broad daylight, whilst painting her daughter-in-a-dog-suit, with a bottle of shoe polish? Triflin'. ::

Before she turned back for the house, my mom promised me that the polish would dry by the time I got to school. What she didn’t tell me, was that the well-doused areas would blotch and run, like blood from a gunshot wound. ::I’ll never forget Steve "Dimbulb" Dunski asking, in all sincerity, if I was supposed to be a dog who got hit by a car. Yeah. That new Saturday morning cartoon character, Dead Dog Walking.::

Okay. That costume was definitely a dog. But even the best costumes made with love, by my mother, could not satisfy my most wicked, repugnant, secret Halloween longing: The Snow White costume set from Cook’s 5 &10. Mask included.

And this wasn't just any ol' cheap, plastic-ass mask. This was one of those milky, opaque things, with light pink cheeks and ruby red lips. The mask was it. Who cares that Snow White’s “dress” was actually a one piece pant suit, with a dress and apron painted onto the front? Not I, said the dwarf.

I wanted that Mask since third grade, when Robin McNeely (the only third grader in the history of the world, to own a pair of red, patent leather go-go boots.) wore it to the school halloween party.

And when she agreed to let us all have a turn to try it on, I was first in line. How I loved the feel of the plastic, pressing on my cheeks. And the strange, crunchy noise that my eyelashes made, as they crashed around the eyehole. Then there was the sweat. And the smell...But my very most favorite part, was sticking the tip of my tongue out the mouth slit, and making everybody go “eww.”

In retrospect, of course, I realize that my mother's creations were spectacular. And that I was very lucky. I sometimes feel a little guilty not making The Cakers something from scratch, for Halloween. But truth be, I don't think she really cares.

In fact, she's already put her order in for next year's Halloween shtick. Snow White. I couldn't mask my joy if I tried.

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