I love Halloween on Shelter Island; kids can still go door to door for treats and the parents don’t have to worry that some crazy person slipped razor blades in an apple. I love the Halloween Costume Parade that we have, whole families dress up in themed costumes. My favorite was the family that dressed up as the characters from McDonalds; one was Ronald McDonald, one was a packet of french fries and dad cracked me up as the Hamburglar with stripped tights on his skinny legs.
Kid costumes today are so much better than the ones we had. We always got those $10 nylon/acetate costumes with a sting that tied in the back of your neck. The costume was only meant to last four hours and would start breaking down about a half hour after you got into it. You, standing there at six years old, fiercely advocating for yourself against the law of the land—your mother who insisted you wear a coat over it. Did you ever see Superman or Wonder Woman wear a coat? Well, if you won that argument chances are your career as a lawyer is doing well. Any-who, the first thing to go on your costume was the tie in the back behind your neck, causing it to slip to one side behind your coat and obscuring the logo of whatever super-hero you were channeling that night.
Next, the seams of the costume began to stretch, then shred, then open – further contorting your costume under your coat and causing the discomfort of feeling material twist and wrap around your body like a boa.
On top of all this, you had to try to avoid approaching houses at the same time as any other kid who was also wearing your costume. I mean, there can’t be two Batmen together at the same time, on the same porch—it would bend the time-space continuum.
Finally, the big bone to pick with all those cheap costumes is that they were highly flammable, as I learned one night when I stood too close to my Aunt Carol, who was smoking a cigarette on the sidewalk while she waited for us to invade the privacy of our neighbors in search of Bit-of-Honey bars and pennies for our UNICEF milk cartons. I stood too close to Aunt Carol and her cigarette melted a spot on the arm of my costume. It melted into my turtleneck underneath and burned me. A Kid had to be careful in those days, an irritated adult could light you up like a torch!
And the masks—where do I begin? Hard, cheap plastic molded character faces held on with a thin elastic cord. You peered out of the pre-cut eyes which cut your peripheral vision as you re-breathed your own breath until the entire inside of the mask was wet, and when you lifted up the mask, like a fish on the floor of a boat, you gasped for oxygen while frost formed on your wet face in the dark. And there was always a sibling close by to pull the mask away and let it snap back on your face so it would sting for the remainder of the night.
Ah, childhood, no matter how long you live, childhood is the longest half of your life.