During my childhood, my mother was a master at creating Halloween costumes for my sister and I to wear for our annual Halloween Party at school and trick-or-treating excursions.
My earliest recollection is having twin bunny costumes. I was a white bunny, and my sister was a pink bunny. We were, in a word, adorable. A couple of years later, my sister was Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I was a cow. In third grade, I was a zebra, and I loved the costume so much that I was a zebra again the next year. Fifth grade, I was a wolf. You might be sensing a theme with my costumes, which was broken in sixth grade, when I was Paul Revere, colonial hat and all. Long story. Most recently, I don my Batman mask whenever I participate in Halloween activities. I also have the proper pieces for a makeshift panda costume but so far, the opportunity hasn’t presented itself.
My costume from second grade, however, was the highlight of my repertoire. I told my mom what I wanted to be, then she made the pattern, got all the materials, and crafted a true masterpiece.
I was a kangaroo.
I’ll say this up front; no photographic evidence exists of this costume. At least, none that I’ve been able to scrounge up, and this was back in the olden days before cell phone cameras. But you’ll have to take my word for it; this costume was bomb. Besides, how many kids do you see walking around in kangaroo costumes during Halloween? These days, it’s mostly Marvel characters, Pokemon, and whatever Disney Princess is “in.” I think I counted twenty Elsas walking around my neighborhood last year.
Anyway, I was extremely pleased with the kangaroo costume. My mom did an amazing job. I couldn’t manage a satisfactory Australian accent, but whatever. I was seven.
I couldn’t wait to show off my costume at the Halloween Party at my elementary school. I was absolutely certain that, at the very least, I wouldn’t have to deal with a doppelganger situation, because I highly doubted that someone else in the K-3rd grade had the same costume idea. And I was correct – not only was I the only kangaroo, I was the only marsupial! Score!
The party proceeded like normal. I hung out with some friends, probably talked about Pokemon cards or Sailor Moon or whatever was cool back then (Tomogatchis, maybe? I think they were a thing in 2000? Was Yu-Gi-Oh around yet?) but I also spent a significant portion of the late afternoon (the older kids got to have an evening party held after ours) avoiding people in costumes that I thought were frightening. Someone in an alien costume kept following me around, so I had to pick up my tail and sprint away to avoid them. I found out later it was one of my friends who just wanted to tell me they thought my costume was cool, but my paralyzing fear of aliens wouldn’t permit me to return the sentiment. At this time in my life, I was also terrified of people in ‘Scream’ costumes, and there were a couple of them at the party, even though I doubt any of my classmates had even seen Scream because we were all under 10. It doesn’t affect me now, but back then, just seeing those masks freaked me out, and I was hyper-aware of them throughout the entire party.
Near the end of the party, the “DJ” hired for the event (it may have just been a parent volunteer, I’m not sure) got onstage to announce the winners of the “costume contest.” I didn’t even know there was a costume contest, so I wasn’t really paying attention. Knowing me, I was probably stuffing my face with M&M’s. They are my kryptonite.
However, I was sucked back to reality when the DJ announced that the winner of the contest was “The Kangaroo!” Everyone around me started clapping and ushering me toward the stage, but seven year old me didn’t quite comprehend what was happening, so I got up onstage looking completely perplexed, and I’m pretty sure I was holding my tail in one hand like a security blanket. The DJ said something to me, or maybe he asked me a question, the details are all a bit fuzzy. I was suffering from severe stage-fright and I don’t think I said anything back. I remember standing up there, staring out at a sea of monsters and fiends and Disney princesses, and the DJ presented me with a plastic pumpkin full of candy corn as my prize for winning the contest. I actually held onto the plastic pumpkin for a few years after that. It was an effective storage container.
I shuffled offstage to a burst of applause, and the party resumed. My friends all crowded around me and we shared the candy corn. I don’t even like candy corn all that much, but this memory is a fond one, regardless.
I’m not a Halloween person, these days — and, admittedly, I haven’t put much effort in over the past few years. This year I’m not celebrating in any fashion, and don’t even have an opportunity to don a costume. But thinking back to that amazing kangaroo costume makes me smile. I’m sure many people have memories like that, of a costume that was particularly special, or one massive haul of the best kind of candy, or a trip to a haunted house/ themed attraction that was super terrifying.
Even if some Halloweens turn out to be a dud (like Charlie Brown and his infamous “I got a rock” trick-or-treat excursion) I’ll always have one special, hoppy Halloween.