Just making conversation the other night, someone asked what I had dressed up as the last time I put on a costume for Halloween.
That was an easy one.
There was a party to go to. People were supposed to come in costume. It was last minute, and I wasn't even sure I was even going to go.
But with little else to do on a chilly late-October night, I thought what the heck?
So I grabbed one of my dad's old fedoras from the top shelf of the hall closet where it had been tossed several years earlier. But no, I didn't throw on a bomber jacket, grab a whip and go as Indiana Jones.
That would have been an artfully inspired effort.
Instead, I wrote "Press" in all caps on an index card, stuck it in the hatband, grabbed a handy reporter's notebook and pen, and with black-rimmed glasses already in position, I went as Clark Kent.
Hey, Superman or Green Lantern got nothin' on me. For me, it was Clark Kent all the way. Mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper and all that.
But the whole costume question started me reminiscing.
That might have been one of the few times in my life that I actually went as a character of my own choosing for Halloween.
I thought back to elementary school days, back when we were still able to dress up on Halloween and actually have a party in the room.
There was the year I begged to go as Davy Crockett. After all, I had the coonskin cap. Even had a BB gun that could double as Ol' Betsy. And who wouldn't want to go as the King of the Wild Frontier?
But mom was having none of it. I was absolutely not taking a BB gun to school, she ruled, even if I emptied out all the BBs. Probably still shoot my eye out somehow, she likely reasoned.
So she made me go as Robin Hood instead. It was apparently OK to take a bow and arrow to school in those days. She made me some Errol Flynn-ish pointy brown felt hat and dyed a pair of thermal long johns green to serve as tights. Yikes!
Walking to school -- yes, we did that in those days, too -- was a painful process as I recall. We didn't even know it was called bullying back then. But I was, after all, walking four blocks to school in long green underwear, wearing a weird pointy hat.
That all could have been ancient history the next year had mom just let me go as an astronaut. Godspeed, John Glenn.
Obviously we didn't have the right stuff for that costume. I knew I'd never be an astronaut but we can all dream, right? Instead, mom made me go as Doc of the Seven Dwarfs.
This time she stuck cotton balls to my face to create a white beard while one of my dad's old white shirts got dyed brown to look like Doc's duds. Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it's off to school I go. More Dopey than Doc.
Rounding out the costume, we dug out a rusty old pick ax from my grandpa's garage. So apparently sharp instruments were OK to take to school then as well.
It went on like that year after year. The year I wanted to be Curly of The Three Stooges -- or at least Moe, since he was the smart, domineering one -- I went as a hobo.
Mom said I was Emmett Kelly (the famous clown), but it was just me in tattered clothes with charcoal rubbed on my face. A bum deal.
That was so frustrating. If I'd wanted to go as Frank Sinatra, she'd have given me my choice of a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn or a king.
Seriously, one year I went as a riverboat gambler. Ruffled shirt with garters on my sleeves, a deck of cards in one hand and dice in the other.
That was the year the kid wearing a cardboard box decorated to resemble a UNIVAC computer won the grand prize.
Why, if I'd only had my bow and arrow or my pick ax that year ...