Updated on May 1, 2017
It’s the first Halloween I can remember. I must’ve been around four because I still had long hair. Kindergarten would begin the years of short hair and tight perms. Mom wasn’t about to mess with a tender-headed kid and a long pony tail by then. I don’t know whose idea it was to make me a princess. I expect I would’ve begged to be a cowboy or an indian. I still have the tiny toy revolver in the rawhide holster we got one Christmas along with the “Roy Rogers” ranch set. There’s a child-sized rodeo belt buckle and a set of Native American nesting dolls in my office. Somewhere I have set of kids spurs.
However it came about, I was an unlikely princess. My mom worked hard on the cardboard crown. She glued glitter to it and my scepter that mostly ended up on my face, hair and hands. If you look at my lovely wand, you’ll see it was a broken yardstick. (Nothing went to waste in our house.) My sister wore the dress as a flower girl a few years earlier. It was a little satin confection that dropped well below my knees. However it happened, I do remember this. I refused to leave the house without the ammo belt. It was a keepsake from my dad’s days in the Navy. He was a skinny guy then, but we must’ve pinned it somehow to make it fit. I liked the way it looked, the way it felt and I wasn’t leaving the house without it.
We were supposed to be going alone. My sister is 4 years older and we lived in one of those old Independence, Mo. neighborhoods where kids could play outside after dark. But we were never alone. Years later my parents confessed they were tailing us at a distance as we went around the block. I can remember going to the weird old guys house where you had to stand on a chair, to reach the popcorn balls in a pan on his kitchen counter. Creepy. I remember standing in the yard at one house waiting for a pack of kids ahead of us to clear out and suddenly feeling a cold wet tongue lick my hand. Turns out a local dog liked popcorn balls, too.
Honestly, for me, it was never about the candy. It was about the freedom to roam in the dark, to see the neighborhood by moonlight, a tribe of little kids looking for our secret campfire. That’s what I like to imagine now when the ninja’s, storm troopers and yes, princesses, show up at our door. It’s like recognizing a smoke signal from a cherished time long, long ago when I was armed with a yard stick and ready to take on anything that threatened the fun.