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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Who Will You Be?

Halloween, I believe, is a bigger deal for kids than Christmas itself.  Certainly Thanksgiving isn't even in the running. When you get down to it, what is Thanksgiving?  Eating.  Actually, it's not even about eating.  It's about saying grace and then eating.  This is not the sort of holiday a kid would come up with.  As for New Years, that's a holiday for grownups.  Fourth of July is okay as long as there's fireworks.  Easter is basically church, except later you get candy eggs.  This leaves Christmas and Thanksgiving.

If children judged pleasurable events as adults do, by the amount of anxiety and disappointment associated with them, then Christmas would stand head, shoulders, and elbows above every holiday in the calendar.  But kids are more capable of grasping unexpected delights and reveling in them, and for that, Halloween beats everything.  Nor is it just about the candy, because, let's face it, getting candy belongs to the same category of things as getting presents.  Beforehand, there is the itchy anxiety that you won't get enough, afterwards either the sinking understanding that life has let you down again, or - worse yet - that you've gotten as much as you could have hoped for or more, and you still don't feel any better off.

But the real thing about Halloween isn't what you get, it's who you'll get to be.

My first memory of Halloween is vague and fuzzy; I seem to recall my mother taking me to A&P to get a costume.  I hadn't been aware such a thing as Halloween was approaching, or what part I'd play in it, but as we entered the A&P, I became aware for the first time there were a number of plastic masks and costumes hanging from the ceiling. I still was not intrigued.  Grocery stores held little to enchant the young Man Martin.  Even when Mur fetched down the Bugs Bunny costume and held it to my chest, measuring it against me, I didn't get it.  The costume was for me, but I didn't especially want a costume.  I hadn't asked for a costume.

It was only later, after supper, when I put the costume on, that I began to get it.  The stiff plastic mask went down over my face like a visor.  An elastic band held it to my head.  The costume was gray felt rabbit fur with a white tummy.  I stood in front of the mirror.  Staring back at me was Bugs Bunny.  The mask was hot and growing damp against my face.  I removed the mask, and there stood familiar, ordinary Man Martin again, only dressed in a bunny suit of gray and white fur.

Mur took me and Chris out trick-or-treating.  I held forth my grocery bag, and neighbors dropped in fistfuls of candy.  But the best part was that it wasn't me doing it - it was Bugs Bunny!  I was Bugs Bunny.

I'm grown now, more or less, and happy, more or less, with my life and what I've made of it.  Adulthood is nothing I could have imagined as a child, in many ways it's infinitely better; I get to be exactly who I chose to become.  I am a creature of my own invention.  Except sometimes, the mask I've fashioned for myself grows warm and clammy against my face, I wish I could remove it for a little bit, and try being the wascally wise-cracking wabbit again in my gray and white felt bunny suit.

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