NOTE: The following originally appeared in the Connecticut Post in 2007, back when I was still writing my "Get Out" column. Call it lazy, but I plan on rerunning my holiday "greatest hits"pieces in the coming months.
As a kid, I loved Halloween, but could care less about the dressing up part. While my friends spent much of the month designing elaborate disguises, I was content to simply make do with whatever was in the beat up old costume box my dad hauled out of the attic every year.
Usually I settled on being a “Hobo,” a costume requiring nothing more than some raggedy clothes and a dirty face – pretty much my year-round appearance anyway. But, since it was Halloween, my mom would add a special touch by smearing my skin with these ancient charcoal tablets she kept in the medicine cabinet. I became fascinated by these after learning that they were not created for their decorative purposes, but were actually intended to be eaten (to alleviate what the label discreetly described as “stomach maladies” - which I now know meant excessive gas – something that would have added a bit more realism to my hobo costume.)
But I wasn’t interested in authenticity; all I cared about was the candy. And I knew that the more creative my costume was, the longer I’d have to stay in each neighbor’s house while I explained how I made it, posed for some pictures and waited impatiently for disinterested husbands to be dragged from their hiding places to come see what a cute little alien, monster, etc. I was.
So hobo it was – besides, if I was going to be begging for candy, why not look the part? Unfortunately my friends had other ideas. Ones that usually involved a group theme, and we would often wind up touring the neighborhood as a weird version of “The Wizard of Oz” (Dorothy, Lion, Scarecrow, Tin Man…and a Hobo) or some twisted take on “Happy Days” (Richie, Potsie, Joanie, the Fonz…and the Hobo.) which confused the neighbors (and wasted time) as they tried to figure out how I fit in with the group. “And who are you supposed to be?” they’d ask, eyeing me as they dropped some candy into my pillowcase. “Toto?” “Chachi?”
But that was a small price to pay for free candy. And since back in those days, everyone handed it out, I would arrive home hours later with a serious sack full of treats. Nowadays, kids come back (if they go out at all) with their pathetic plastic pumpkins “filled” with maybe a dozen “fun-size” candy bars – and most of the good stuff already eaten by their flashlight wielding fathers (something else we never had to deal with.) But I can just imagine my neighbors’ reactions as they greet today’s trick-or-treaters, “Oh, who do we have here? A Princess. Harry Potter. Spider Man. And…,” eyeing the disgruntled dad at the bottom of the steps, “… a Hobo!”)
Alas, my hobo days are over. But strangely enough, the older I got, the more creative I became with my costumes. So much so that I recently spent several days searching the state for a pair of size 16, red, high-heeled shoes to complete my Tina Turner outfit. And I’m not the only one. It seems we so-called grown-ups get more excited about Halloween than our kids. Party stores stock more adult costumes than kiddie ones. Invitations to Halloween parties request that kids be left at home. And bars and clubs sponsor costume parties and Halloween-themed evenings that cater to the over 21-crowd.
So whether you’re home handing out candy, hanging out at the bar, or taking the kids trick or treating, I hope you have a safe and happy Halloween – and if you happen to over-indulge, my mom might still have some charcoal tablets for you.