And while my humbuggery has been tempered over the years with a grudging appreciation for tradition and an ability to derive pleasure from proximity to the joy of others, all the hoopla for the big holidays seems hardly worth the hassle, and your Hallmark holidays like Valentine's day can cram it as far as I'm concerned.
But Halloween was always different for me. It was the only rock 'n' roll holiday. With its focus on free candy and pranks, it was unapologetically decadent. And its decadence was not in the guise of piety, like Christmas or Thanksgiving, but decadence just for the hell of it. I could get behind that.
In addition to the delightful depravity of Halloween, the other element that appealed to me was the masquerade. For the same reason, I also loved Fasching when we lived in Germany, which is pretty much the same thing as Mardi Gras or Carnival: an opportunity to disguise yourself and behave in ways you normally would never consider behaving. With impunity.
My love for dressing up persisted through college and beyond. I never did anything very elaborate or expensive--my costumes were usually made of stuff that was lying around the house or at my local thrift store--but I came up with some pretty decent ones. I even won valuable prizes at a few costume contests: a Miller Genuine Draft bar light for my "Jesus H. Christ on a Crutch," a VHS tape of Ghost for my "Lone Rollerblader of the Apocalypse," and a bottle of Andre and case of Kools for a group costume in which we portrayed the Village People, to the delight of the patrons of the only gay bar in Charlottesville (this was 1991-ish, when references to the Village people were still unexpected and funny.)
Sometimes my costumes were topical: a dead stockbroker in '87, and, with my wife (then girlfriend) in '92, Woody Allen and Soon Yi Previn. Sometimes they were pop-culture themed, like Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo in '99-ish, which consisted of brown sweats, a Santa hat, white gloves, and my face covered in brown lipstick. Unfortunately, South Park was not as well-known as it is now, as I realized by the expression on the face of the African American guy I had never met before whose party I arrived at, having been invited by a mutual friend, and who was understandably put off by what appeared to be a guy in blackface crashing his party.
One more recent costume I'm kind of proud of was a group concept that we used about five years ago when Dr. Mom, me, and a couple of our gay buddies went to San Francisco for the legendary Castro District Halloween party. Somehow I came up with the idea of going as fireflies (or "lightning bugs," depending on where you're from) and I fashioned illuminated butt-gear for our group out of cheap plastic Ikea light fixtures. As was the case with the Mr. Hanky debacle, my instincts were a little off the mark, since it turns out most Californians have never seen a lightning bug. Nonetheless, people seemed to enjoy our glowing asses. In fact, mine was violated by the dryer-vent appendage of a robot.
But since the kids were born, I haven't really been able to get in the spirit of Halloween. Last year, when they were just barely past the fourth trimester, we stuffed them in some spooky onesies and carted them around to a couple parties, which was fine, if not particularly exciting.
This year I wanted to do something more creative--something along the lines of my past costumes. But unfortunately, inspiration failed me. With two days to go before Halloween, I had nothing.
Why was it that it used to come so easily to me, and now, try as I might, I couldn't come up with any good ideas? What was I doing in the past that I wasn't doing now?
I racked my brain for the key to my former creativity, but no answer presented itself.
In the past, I had simply surrounded myself with the tools and materials I had at hand, and it was almost as if I were possessed with the spirit of Halloween.
So I decided to try to recreate the process this afternoon while the girls napped, hoping the spirit would once again find me. I secluded myself in the garage (with the baby monitor receiver close-by at all times, of course) and got started.
First, I assembled the raw materials:
And then I waited.
It had worked! My plan had worked! These were perhaps the best costumes I had ever fashioned with my own hands!
They were a bit conventional, to be sure, but appropriate for the little girls, whose favorite book of the moment is about a ladybug, and features bees as supporting characters. And the degree of detail was quite impressive for a two-hour project. I had even attached laundry instruction tags inside!
As I admired my work, I heard Dr. Mom rustling around in the living room, breaking down some boxes to put into the recycling bin or something. She must have come home and found the costumes and decided to try them on the kids.
"Oh, there you are," she said. "Did you see the kids' costumes?"
"Uh, yeah. I kind of made them, so I guess I saw them."
"Yeah, right," she said. "You and Amazon, Daddy." By which I'm sure she meant "You're an amazing daddy." Her English is still a little dodgy sometimes.