"He's a cat."
"He's really a cat, that's his costume. He's wearing a dog-costume."
"Oh! Well... that is a great costume!"
"And what are you supposed to be?"
"I'm a bird. A phoenix," I explained through my feathered mask, as I did a little curtsey with my baggy tie-dyed t-shirt.
"Okay, I get it, that works. Great!" he said. "Well keep rising, phoenix, keep rising."
Last night, I did something I haven't done in at least 15 years. I've been wanting to do it for a couple of years, and this time I actually stirred up the courage to do it. I went trick-or-treating.
I'm short; I have a small frame. I figured I could pull it off if I wore a mask. I could pretend to be young. I'm not sure precisely why I wanted to do it...I certainly have no need for all that candy...but I think it was more about reliving fond memories. Having fun.
I always loved Halloween as a kid, and I trick-or-treated well into my teenage years. The darkness, the shadowy costumes everywhere, kicking through the dry leaves, running about collecting sugary donations. The freedom to approach houses you never visit otherwise, the gifts and friendliness from strangers.
So I put together a simple costume. (I knew last week's costume would not convince anybody that I was a kid!) A feathery bird mask and very baggy kid-clothes - tie-dyed pants and t-shirt. Purple tie-dyed tennis shoes. I brushed my hair down around my face, and I picked up a plastic bag. Then came the hard part: stirring up the courage to leave my house and actually start visiting other houses. Getting over the "oh my god you're 32 and you're being ridiculous" hurdle.
I was too embarrassed to do it on my own street; I certainly didn't want to see anybody I knew. That wasn't the point of this little adventure... I wanted to stay in disguise. So I sneaked out my side door, got in my car, and drove a few blocks away to an area where I didn't know anyone. I parked on a dark quiet road, climbed out, and lingered self-consciously in the shadows by a tree. Finally I put my mask on and walked around the corner, took a deep breath, and approached my first house.
It went really well. After the first-house awkwardness, I slid more into character. I reminded myself not to make any "adult-like" comments, and to simply approach any conversation with a sense of wonder. In my head, I was 13. I don't know how old people thought I was, but it didn't really matter. I grinned a lot. I talked with enthusiasm. I kicked and crunched my way through piles of dry leaves as I went from house to house.
It was a really great experience. People were friendly. Nobody asked how old I was or what I was doing out alone. Several people asked about and/or complimented my costume. I got lots of extra candy, because they said they hadn't gotten as many trick-or-treaters as anticipated (so really, I was doing the neighborhood a service!). I wished everyone a happy Halloween as I thanked them.
It has to have been the warmest and driest Halloween night I have ever experienced. I remember as a child how frustrating it always was to have to incorporate a warm jacket into my costumes (usually ruining the look I was going for). It was always cold! Last night though, I was perfectly comfortable walking around wearing just a t-shirt and thin pants.
When I got home, I poked my nose into my bag to see what I'd collected. The smell of that bag, the combination of chocolate and sugar and plastic candy wrappers was extraordinary -- it was a completely familiar and nostalgic scent that I hadn't even realized I remembered. It smelled like arranging your loot on the living room floor in order of preference. It smelled like bartering for the stuff you like the best, eating too much chocolate, and hiding the remainder from your younger siblings. It smelled like Halloween.