Friday, October 8, 2010

The Halloween Gnome - Or How I Embarrassed The Candy Corn Out of My Older Sister

(Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons)

Maryland. I lived there as a child in a homey little two-story clapboard, with dogwoods in the front and giant maples in the back.  Our house sat before a wild dark forest, and just up the street from an overgrown, deeply shadowed cemetery. It was the land of the trees, and the home of the grave–the perfect place for Halloween.

I adored Halloween. Maybe living close to New England and having read "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" started it. I loved the old-fashioned harvest-moon traditions. Loved it when we started making orange and black construction-paper lamps in school. Thrilled to pull out the little cardboard printed skeleton we'd picked up somewhere and hang it on the front door. Rushed home every day to find out what my next biggest sister had come up with for us to make. She was endlessly creative and crafty. She doesn't think so, but she was. Tootsie-pop ghosts were my favorite project of hers. A decoration AND a snack!

When it came to Halloween costumes, I was obsessed.  It had to be perfect, and I spent a great deal of time in the weeks leading up to that night dreaming up possibilities. We weren't one of the lucky families whose parents took them to the store to buy costumes. We had to make them –which I know now to be way more cool. I tended to lean toward character-costumes and away from the gruesome or horrifying. That just wasn't my thing. I had walked past our little cemetery down the street on the odd evening. Seen the mad, twisted caretaker leaning on his shovel, glowering at me. Heard how he used to hide behind tombstones and whack unsuspecting children on the head when they got too close. Then he'd drag them into an underground mausoleum where all shovel-smacked children were kept. I wasn't going near there, nor was I dressing up as anything remotely resembling The Shoveler. It was literary-characters all the way.

In the fourth grade our teacher spent September reading "Pippi Longstockings" to us. I was mad for the little girl with sticky-out braids, who had a pet monkey and a pet horse and wore crazy clothes and lived on her own. I used to sleep with my feet on my pillow, just like she did. I wanted to be Pippi. So that year, I was.

I found a natty old purple striped dress with raggedy seams and some ridiculous socks. I searched the backs of my parent's closet for some hole-y work boots. I borrowed my older sister's stuffed monkey (plush, not taxidermied)  and braided my hair. I was set to go. Except . . .

I couldn't get the braids to stick out. Pippi Longstocking had braids that stuck clear out to the Atlantic Ocean. How could I go trick or treating as Pippi without the trademark braids? I did everything I could think of to make them horizontal but nothing worked. Everyone else was too busy to help. So I had two pitiful hangy-down things on the side of my head. What to do? Without the braids how would anyone know who I was supposed to be?

My sister–the one who made lollipop ghosts and who, by the way, was terribly shy and proper and had an embarrassment-factor that was off the charts–was told to take me trick or treating. Everyone else had things to do, and the 'rents were taking my younger brother to something. So sis took me. And that day will go down in her personal history as one of the most horrifying of her adolescent life. Because I had hit upon the solution to my problem.

My method of self-identification in the event that none of my neighbors understood who I was dressed up as was to shriek, at the top of my lungs, at every single house we approached: "MAKE WAAAAAAAYYYYY FOR PIPPIIIIII LOOONNNGGGSTOOOCKIIIINNNGSSSS!!!!! MAAAAAAKE WAAAAAAAAY! MAAAAAKE WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!! WooooooWoooooooo!!!!"

Then I waved the monkey. For effect.

Well, it was pretty much all my sister could do not to march me over to the cemetery, knock on the mausoleum door, and chuck me inside. We got home and when my parents asked how it went she wailed, "I've never been so embarrassed in my whole life!" Then she proceeded to do a spot-on imitation of my personal Pippi informercial.

Huh. I'd had no idea that my sister had been dying inside the entire evening. None. She was that gracious. And she did not once abandon me to The Shoveler. What a good sister.

Let me tell you, I learned something that year. My sister's imitation showed me what a stinkin' good promoter I was. I could hardly wait until the next year when she could take me out again. "MAKE WAAAAAYYYYY FOR SCOOOOOBBBIIIEEEEE DOOOOOOO! RUH ROH!!! MAKE WAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYY!!!"
Me and a Few of My Little Halloweenies – Many Moons Ago
(The baggy jeans were my Halloween costume)


Sara B. Larson said...

I can't imagine you running around screaming that, are you sure that's your story and not someone else's? ha ha ha ha.

Your kids are so darling! And of course those pants were a costume. Riiight. ;)

indiana weaver said...

Oh. My. Gosh. I haven't had a laugh that good in ages.

Hooh. Thanks.

Janiel Miller said...

Yeah, no prob, Rob. Plenty more where that came from. Sadly.

Hee, thanks Sara. :)

Maegan Langer said...

I spent the BEST Halloween of my LIFE in New England. You're so right: there's something about Halloween in that part of the world.

Russo said...

Janiel, this post really made me smile. I adore your wit and your writing style. Darling pic BTW

kris said...

that was fun to read and remember. I had no idea there was the Shovel Man waiting for me. I did run really fast, everytime I had to pass the cemetery..I would dare myself to look at it, but usually I pretended that something had my attention on the other side of the street! I remember how cute you were as Pippi Longstocking!! That is so funny! Poor Lorrain. Are you sure it wasn't me who made up the sucker ghosts?

Cappy said...

I remember Pippi! You were sooo adorable, and I can completely see you announcing your arrival with Lorraine trailing, humiliated behind you!

Janiel Miller said...

I think my sister had a different adjective to describe me. But thanks, Cappy!