“I don’t think I want to go trick-or-treating this year,” said Adrienne, shortly after her birthday, and my heart broke.
I asked her why, when she loved decorating for Halloween so much. The front porch was all strewn with nasty cobwebs and plastic skeletal creatures, and she kept talking about buying a pumpkin to carve.
Adrienne said she didn’t really like wandering around the neighborhood going door to door in costume anymore. I felt as if an era had ended. She’d always looked forward to trick-or-treating before.
Still, when we got to Walmart to do the grocery shopping, we admired the costumes. There was a full-body Minecraft skeleton suit with a mask that was particularly nice. Adrienne is in love with Minecraft right now, so we bought the largest size with money that was supposed to be for groceries. But when we got home, we found it was a bit too small.
“It makes me look FAT!” insisted Adrienne, as the flimsy fabric ripped.
I didn’t think I’d have to have That Talk with her so soon. Fat mothers who were bullied as fat children know which talk I mean. The one where you stammer “You’re not fat, and if you were it wouldn’t be a bad thing because fat bodies are as beautiful as thin bodies, but really you are not at all fat, you have broad arms and shoulders because you do martial arts and you’re beginning adolescence so your body is changing but you are gorgeous just the way you are.” But that didn’t change the fact that we didn’t have a Minecraft skeleton costume. Child size large was too small. Child size extra large wasn’t available anywhere I could find. And then there’s the fact that a child’s costume looks like this, whereas an adult woman’s costume looks like this. That wasn’t any fun.
We didn’t think about costumes for awhile.
We bought Adrienne her normal Autumn clothes: jeans from the “girl” section, long-sleeved Minecraft t-shirts and nice comfortable solid sweaters from the “boy” section, a puffy coat and sneakers that didn’t seem to be marketed to either gender, a nice fashionable cropped jean jacket. She asked if she could dye her hair and I said that would be lovely, so we found a shampoo that adds blue with every washing. The first few tries didn’t show up against her brown hair, but after three showers it was shiny indigo, very becoming.
We went to martial arts and the last few soccer games of the season. Adrienne is new to soccer this year. The other teammates have been doing it since they were toddlers, but this is her first try. She noticed she didn’t run as fast as the rest of the team but she was very focused and attentive, so she asked the coach if she could play goalie sometimes, and he let her. Michael and I sat shivering in the field, cheering her on as she blocked a ball.
We did our homeschooling, which is going well. Adrienne likes science and doesn’t like to sit still for arithmetic. She likes books about animals and children who do interesting things, and she doesn’t like fantasy. She hates spelling the most, so she’s made a game out of asking me how to spell words she knows perfectly every time she goes to write something. I always answer with “you know that.”
Finally it was a few days before Halloween, and we still didn’t have a costume.
“We can go to Spirit Halloween,” I offered.
The nearest Spirit Halloween was in Robinson, an hour away. It’s a gorgeous drive this time of year, with all the trees red and gold against the bright sky. We found our way to the mall, where we walked up and down both floors and rode in the elevator. I am terrified of heights, and get dizzy when I look down from a mall’s upper floor through the atrium. Adrienne is also scared of heights, but she gets dizzy when she stands at the bottom of a high place and looks up.
We got to the pop-up store in the abandoned Sears. We admired the animatronics and the bizarre little cardboard haunted passageways. We looked at costumes in the children’s section, which were too small, and in the adult’s section, which were too big and too expensive. There was nothing the right size for a muscular, athletic pre-teen girl who is as tall as her mother but not so plump.
Finally, we came to a rack of gruesome plastic weapons: swords, axes, baseball bats, clubs with nails sticking out. In the middle of the display was the largest rubber chicken I’ve ever seen.
“Can we buy the rubber chicken?” Adrienne asked.
We could. We didn’t have a costume, but we had a rubber chicken. She squeaked it at me all the way home.
“I guess I won’t go trick-or-treating,” said Adrienne wistfully.
“Would you like to go with your friend in her neighborhood, instead of around this neighborhood?”
Yes, it turned out, she would like that.
“Okay. You don’t really have to wear a costume, you know. You can just wear your normal clothes. My sister did that one year. No one will mind.”
Adrienne perked up at that thought. “I thought it was illegal not to wear a costume.”
“You can wear whatever you want.”
We made arrangements to meet our friends on the other side of town. As the hour approached, she got a notecard and a marker. “How do you spell ‘I?'” she asked with a grin.
“You know that, Adrienne.”
“I. How do you spell ‘am?'” and then she caught my eye and smiled. “Am is A-M.”
“How do you spell ‘myself?'”
“You know that too.'”
When it was time to leave, she had her costume: her shiny blue hair, her soccer jersey, her new jeans her, cropped jacket. To her jacket, she’d taped the card that said I AM MYSELF.
And she went trick-or-treating, happily, as herself.
I can’t think of a better thing to be.
image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.