Philadelphia Metropolis


My Halloween Horror Story

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By Scott Baldwin



There were definitely benefits to having an art teacher for a father.  Creativity around the house helped our own creativity to flourish.  We had the art studio where there was a pottery wheel so we could work with clay, and we also could sketch on the walls of the studio, which encouraged imagination.

But there is a downside to being around creativity.

Examples of my father's overabundance of creativity usually manifested itself around Halloween.  For me, it meant that I wasn't going to be getting my Halloween costume from the local store.   He felt it was his responsibility to make me one, usually an enormous papier-mâché mask that by far was unparalleled to the costumes of other students at my elementary school. They had to settle for pirate costumes with fake eye patches from the local Kmart, while I showed up wearing a huge headpiece of my father's chosen Sesame Street character.

While I appreciated my father's creative bent -- and my chiropractor appreciated the business that came his way from these neck-fracturing globes of destruction -- the weeks leading up to Halloween left me pleading with my Dad, my very own Martha Stewart of the Macabre.

 "You do so much for me," I would say.  "This year you don't have to make my costume.  We'll just go to the local shop. You are so busy with your classes at school. You deserve a break!"

It never worked.  He just kept molding his papier-mâché until a colossal Bert or Ernie or Cookie Monster emerged.

While most students in class showed up dressed as pirates, ghosts, witches or in other store-bought costumes, I was exiled from that community, becoming a social pariah in a costume that made me feel sympathy for the Man in the Iron Mask.  My father also never took into consideration that I would be walking around with this monstrosity of unbearable burden atop my eight-year-old frame during a horrible parade.

Along with everything else that would most likely drive me to a lifetime of chiropractic visits, a therapist would be needed to allow me to unburden from my memory certain idiosyncratic routines during the month of October.  I would also talk about the fact that my father never really gave me much say in what gigantic mask would be perched atop my small shoulders. 

While the only fear most of my classmates had at this time of year was that some insane neighbor would shove razors into their Three Musketeers, mine was that I'd  sustain serious neck damage for years to come and possibly see the world at an angle.

I could only be so lucky to find a razor blade in a candy bar because it would balance out the pain throbbing from every inch of my body as I toddled door-to-door in my mega-costume.

A parade through town always accompanied this hellish day.  My teacher made nice comments about the creativity of the costume.  Or at least I think it was my teacher; my father didn't put too much time into the eye holes.  I could have been walking into oncoming traffic as far as I knew.

The bullies saw it differently. They saw me as a massive target.  And believe me, it's not easy to outrun kids twice your size when you're wearing an object that is twice the size of your head, while lacking any peripheral vision.

The finale of this horrible day always concluded at the local nursing home.  By the time my class reached the collection of elderly souls, I had more aches and pain than the people I was visiting.  I was the one in need of a walker and strong meds.

Although they were shut-ins with few visitors, these seniors weren't exactly enthusiastic about a gaggle of costumed third graders showing up. We'd stroll into a room of geriatrics in wheelchairs, who for the most part were asleep, or who stared at us in disdain or pretended to sleep so we wouldn't bother their peace and tranquility. 

I always contemplated reminiscing and swapping war stories with those seniors who were conscious to compare injuries we shared. I'd wonder if they had an overly artistic parent as a youth.  All I could really focus on was that I'd be wearing this grotesque concoction on my head hours later in the evening in order to receive a bushel of candy.

Was a bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups really worth the pains shooting down my spine?

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