GROWN-UP PARTY GIVES WAY TO YOUNGER CROWD – KIDS COUNT DOWN TO TRICK-OR-TREATING - A close up of a person talking on a cell phone - Painting

We don’t get many – or any – trick-or-treaters in my Old Town neighborhood; never have, actually, though I suppose I can’t blame parents for being reluctant to send their children up a dark and rickety wooden staircase on Simonton Street in Key West, to an apartment across the street from a swingers’ guest house.

“Go ahead, Timmy, knock on that door. See what happens.”

Yeah, not so much, Parent of the Year.

But I will say I miss seeing neighborhoods full of little kids, crisscrossing the streets and cutting through front yards to compare candy hauls.

I don’t miss it enough to forgo my Old Town homes, mind you, but it is a nice and nostalgic little experience whenever I visit a friend’s kid-filled neighborhood in New Town.

Stan and I were recalling old Halloween costumes and experiences on a recent evening, and I should apologize right here and now to my mom, whose birthday is Oct. 31.

Since the time her children were born, my brother in 1973 and myself in 1976, she got screwed out of a birthday celebration. Her birthday dinners were rushed or skipped entirely as Kevin and I tapped our feet rudely in a rush to don costumes and join the neighborhood mob in Kansas City, where we spent our youngest years. 

And that memory the other night brought up one of my more traumatic Halloween costumes. It was genius in concept, but left much to be desired in its execution. 

The year was 1981. I was 5 and my mom decided to turn me into a Rubik’s Cube. She cut holes for my head and arms; painted a cardboard box the requisite colors and divided each section with black electrical tape. I loved it and was thrilled at how cool my mom was in the early days of Rubik’s Cubes and DIY costumes.

I must say I looked adorable and couldn’t wait for the next day’s costume parade at Rosehill Elementary School in Overland Park, Kansas. I figured I was a sure winner. 

Alas, when it came time for us tiny kindergartners to parade through the cafeteria among “the big kids,” I got stuck, hopelessly stuck.

My box became lodged between the edge of the cafeteria lunch tables and the wall. And my 5-year-old mind didn’t have the problem-solving skills to do anything but cry until someone alerted Kevin to his little sister’s plight across the lunchroom. In typical big-brother fashion, he rolled his eyes, but came to my rescue by pushing the lunch table away and shoving me, still inside my box, unceremoniously past the obstacle. 

I was free at last. Blubbering and embarrassed at having held up the whole costume parade, but free nonetheless.

Later that night, I donned the box again to go trick-or-treating, and immediately realized I couldn’t close my arms around the box to hold out my pillowcase for candy. I was forced to resort to one of the crappy little plastic pumpkins that could be held with one hand. 

I got home that night with my smallest-on-the-block candy collection, extricated myself from the painted box and glared at my mother’s colorful costume creation.

So as you send your kids off this evening, try not to let them get lodged in any small spaces. And if the unthinkable does happen, at least make sure an older sibling or neighbor is around to shove them loose. 

Other than that, have a fantastic Halloween, Key West. I probably won’t see you around our neighborhood, but that’s likely for the best. And if I do see a kid in a box, stuck somewhere between a table and a wall, don’t worry; I’ll set you free.

And Happy Birthday, Mom. Thanks for all the (other) amazing costumes every year. I love you, boxed or not.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I’m thinking that many others share calamitous cardboard box costume stories, Mine involves a rainy night in the late 60’s. The streets of south St.Louis were littered with preadolescents sporting the latest cartoon character in itchy polyester, lead paint masks and, in my particular case, a cardboard robot.
    The rain started slowly and my gauges and knobs began bleeding but then a midwestern deluge turning my square robot into a droopy, sticky mess wrapped around my sagging shoulders. Actually, a similar thing happened across the street from house, but that’s another story.

  2. Mandy, I’m sorry but I’m crying so hard with laughter imagining your poor 5-year old self waddling around in that box, slightly off balance, trying to get candy! Do you happen to have a picture? 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

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