Remembering nightmares of Halloweens past

The principles of Halloween sound promising: devouring chocolate and dressing in outrageous costumes. People hand out Twizzlers and Starbursts. You carve faces into vegetables and hang up paper images of blood-sucking vampires around your house.
Typical American holiday. No more bizarre than chowing down on jellied beets from a can and being mesmerized by a pigskin for four hours.
So why do I despise Halloween? Let’s just say that Oct. 31 has not been kind to me.
My first Halloween memory is of being poked repeatedly in the eye with a make-up brush. I was the saddest witch since the house fell on the Wicked Witch of the East … West … I forget. That traumatic Halloween is only compounded in my memory with images of my brother — blood dripping from his mouth — trying to bite my neck. My parents seemed to think this was amusing enough that they didn’t need to inform me that my sibling had food coloring and plastic teeth. I was scarred.
Since then, Halloween has not improved. I place the blame on two entities: my parents and the state of Minnesota. Let me explain. The essential factor in a successful Halloween is your costume right? My costumes have always sucked. Even my most well-intentioned plans for splendiferous costumes have been foiled by the two above entities.
My most memorable attempt was the year that I wanted to be a flower princess. My mother sewed an extravagant flower headpiece with a matching satin (or whatever cheap polyester was on sale at Ben Franklin) gown. We fashioned a wand from ribbons, and I even had dainty slippers. It was perfect. I was poised to move beyond the past trauma of Halloween and enter a new era.
Ahh, but yes, the state of Minnesota and my parents interfered. The eve of Oct. 31, 1987, it snowed. We’re not talking slight flurries with a chance for some snow by midnight. We’re talking inches of mushy, gray snow. My mother eyed my beautiful outfit and headed straight for the duct tape. My headpiece was strapped to a stocking cap — the kind that people wear when they’re going to rob a gas station. I was stuffed into a snowsuit underneath my purple “satin” gown. I wore moon boots. The final outrage was that my mittens were too clumsy, and I couldn’t hold onto my wand.
I resembled one of those fat fairy godmothers from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Yep, the look was Fairy Merryweather meets homeless transient. My mother saved the photos. They’re paraded out when new boyfriends visit.
Following the flower princess folly was “the spirit of Halloween.” What, you’ve never heard of the spirit-of-Halloween costume? Obviously you weren’t raised in an eight-person household with a mother who had exhausted her creative energies on your younger brother’s hand-sewn lion costume. I sprayed my frizzy permed hair orange and donned a black jumpsuit. I wore pumpkin-shaped glasses, ghost-shaped earrings, and a witch necklace that cackled when you pulled a string attached to a broom. No one had the slightest clue what or who I was. And if an aerosol can says “not to be used on blondes,” believe it. I had pinkish hair for a month.
The spirit-of-Halloween costume was succeeded by the mother lion (another of my mother’s recycled creations using my younger brother’s old costume where I just carried a stuffed lion and wore an apron); a punk rocker (again, do NOT use hair-dye that says “not to be used for blondes”); and other embarrassing outfits.
Through all these botched costumes and embarrassing escapades, I carried the belief deep within that one day I would have an amazing, impressive Halloween costume. Marilyn Monroe snuffed the life out of this dream. It was my senior year of high school, and I was going to a costume party. I would be the blonde bombshell. I wore Marilyn’s famed dress from the Seven-Year Itch. Actually, I wore a cheap, thin imitation of that dress. If only I had listened to my mother’s cardinal rule: Beware of underwear issues. My mother has an obsession with underwear issues: people who wear granny underwear and tight pants, people who wear see-through shirts and bright-colored bras, people who aren’t wearing any but should — you get the idea.
After 18 years of hearing her laments, you’d assume that I’d be well-versed in this field. No. I wore this cheap flimsy white dress with bright underwear that showed through and no bra. The obvious occurred. It was embarrassing. It was also the end of Halloween costumes.
But even through my history of horrible outfits Halloween shouldn’t have been a complete bummer. There was the second principle: devouring chocolate. But the state of Minnesota also managed to squash the joy in that.
Starting in kindergarten and continuing all my days as a tricker-treater, they played that damn video: HALLOWEEN SAFETY. Any true Minnesotan has seen it. They show the danger of eating chocolate. How your parents need to inspect every piece of candy before you ate it. There might be a tiny piece of glass or a miniature razor hidden in the crevices of the caramel nougat. I didn’t want to eat chocolate after that. Who knew what Snickers bar would contain that razor?
Also, if you remember that video, they suggest you use reflective tape on your costume. I think my mother was the only parent who followed this. It’s hard to keep the flower princess mentality when you’re wearing orange, shiny tape that says: “CAUTION, Construction area.”
I shudder at the thought of my Halloween pasts.
But what will I be doing this Halloween?
I’ll be handing out candy with my newborn niece and insuring that her first Halloween is a success. She will be my Halloween protege. I vow to never make her wear moon boots or stocking caps. I solemnly swear that I’ll let her stuff her face with chocolate, and I won’t check for imaginary razors. I’ll give her a flashlight instead of reflective tape. Or maybe I’ll just sit back and let her enjoy Halloween. Because I’m sure that I will somehow ruin mine.
Amanda Mark’s column usually appears alternate Fridays. She welcomes comments at [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]