On October 31, 1988, I stood in front of my parent’s bathroom mirror and placed a mask donned with purple eye shadow, sparkly star earrings and teased blonde and pink plastic bangs over my chubby 7-year-old face. I smiled in approval beneath the mask because I had transformed into my favorite cartoon character of all time- Jem, the truly outrageous female rock star.
I grabbed my candy carrier (pumpkin) and safety glow sticks and hopped into the back of my mother’s Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency. We left our country home on a cool hill to pick up the friends who went trick-or-treating with us each year.
By the time we were seven, my buddies and I had this Halloween thing down to a science. We always went to the same neighborhoods and we knew which houses gave out the king-sized candy bars and which dentists threw toothbrushes and floss into our pumpkins.
Our mothers sat in the Oldsmobile and talked about the mothers who weren’t in the Oldsmobile as we ran through the yards, from one house to the next, like looters after an earthquake. We even dug into our stash and devoured some deliciousness along the way. We had no fear of laced Skittles or razor blades in peanut butter cups. This was the 80s. The world was safe.
When we’d cleaned out one neighborhood, we ran back to the car and my mother drove us to another one. On the way, we littered her floor mats with candy wrappers covered in nougat, despite her pleas to not eat in her immaculate ride.
Although my pumpkin was heavy with high-fructose corn syrup, and my belly was, too, I managed to keep up with my friends. As I bounded through the damp grass, the Jem mask haphazardly hanging from my face, my real eyes didn’t align with the eye holes in the mask. I didn’t care. I didn’t have to see my friends to trail them. I just followed their voices and the sweet smell of Jolly Ranchers.
I remember exactly where we were in my small home town- the very neighborhood, the very yard-where I failed to notice from behind the mask that my cronies, dressed as a California Raisin and Glinda the Good Witch, slowed their pace. And as I was running, full speed ahead to the sounds of a plastic rock star costume swishing between my thighs and lollipops violently banging the insides of my bright orange pumpkin, the earth vanished beneath my bright pink high-top Reeboks.
I plummeted, unable to see where I was plummeting, and I called out for help. But my friends didn’t care. No, those best friends of mine, who had been my Halloween partners since we favored Rainbow Brite and Care Bear costumes, were in such hot pursuit of candy that they left me behind to be swallowed whole by a drainage ditch.
I slowly sat up, tears forming in my eyes as I looked around and saw nothing but darkness and a wall of grass.
“You guys?” I called out.
I held back tears as I retrieved the pumpkin from the ground, but alas, it was empty. All of my candy, my treasure, had spilled forth from my candy-carrying gourd and was now scattered inside the ditch.
I used my failing glow stick to search the dark ground for the loot and I scrambled to put what I could find back into the pumpkin.
And then I heard it.
Like a pack of Wildebeest headed my way- the sound of footprints charging towards me in the ditch.
I hurried to grab the candy, but they were on top of me now- a group of kids, like a pack of wild animals, running down one side of the ditch and up the other (because they could actually see it) and in the meantime, stepping all over my candy and nearly stepping on a truly outrageous rock star.
Once they were gone, I rose, defeated and deflated, with a pumpkin full of smashed candy and grass clippings. I climbed out of the ditch and ran, sobbing like a baby, to my mother’s car.
As we waited for my friends to return to the Oldsmobile, I sat, sniffling, in the back seat and ate a mushy Snickers. I threw the stupid Jem mask, with its teeny-tiny eye holes, to the floorboard littered with crumbs.
I’ll never forget that Halloween.
It was so truly truly truly not outrageous.