and always know where your towel is.
Note: The story you are about to hear is true. Some names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Early October 1984
"So, what do you want to be for Halloween this year?" My mother made my costumes. A year ago, I was a pumpkin, complete with green leotards.
I recently rediscovered my old science books from kindergarden and first grade. Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang explains the body and space and science through a question and answer format. It was nostalgic and inspiring.
"I want to be Linus."
"Linus? What do you need for that?"
"Hold on a sec." I ran for one of the books and started flipping through it. Looking for Linus. I searched the book as I walked back slowly to my mother. I sat at her feet, cross-legged and continued to flip.
Finally, I turned to a page with a picture of him. He was dressed in black shoes and shorts. His shirt was horizontal stripes, alternating white and dark blue. He carried a blue blanket and had his thumb squarely in his mouth. I lifted the book up to my mom.
She looked at the picture intensely. "You have black shoes and shorts, so all I have to do is buy cloth for the shirt."
"And the blanket!" I chirped. For me, the symbol of Linus is the blanket.
"And the blanket." She smiled.
Near October 31st, 1984
Everyone is in their costumes. They range from the simple (there is always someone in the traditional white sheet ghost) to the ornate (there is always a princess complete with tiara and custom-dyed shoes to get just the right shade of princess lavender). I was proud of the Linus costume my mother made for me, complete with powder blue blanket. My hair was cut boyish short. I thought the ensemble made me look like Linus, but there was a little voice in the back of my head that told me some people wouldn't get it.
"So, what are you supposed to be?" she asks, eyeing my costume. It's Kathy, the most popular girl in school, decked out in the afore-mentioned princess costume.
I decided to strike a pose. I promptly hold my security blanket to the side of my head with one hand and promptly stick the thumb of my other hand in my mouth.
"Oh, so, you're a baby this year. You should have worn a jumper and gotten one of those sucky things like Jenny. You'd look better." She pointed to the tallest female classmate. Jenny clearly hit puberty early and her growth spurt made her a towering Amazonian. Her pacifier dangled from a cord around her neck as she gabbed with other members of the 'in crowd'. Her jumper was a pastel pink and standing next to Kathy, they look like two foil-wrapped somethings one would find in an easter basket. As she walked around the room, she would drag a pillow around on the floor. I cringed just thinking about what things it picked up from the floor.
"No no." See, told you! They would never guess what you are. Never. They are illiterate and never read those cool Charlie Brown books. "I'm supposed to be Linus." I smile unconvincingly and strike another pose.
"Suuuure. From what I remember, Linus was a boy, didn't have dark skin, didn't wear glasses, and never wore earrings." She pointed at the tiny gold studs I wore in my ears. I never take them off, even when taking a shower. The suggestion seemed akin to taking off all my clothes in public and I shuddered. "What a lame costume." She walked away from me.
"I just forgot to take them off..." my voice trailed. I don't think she heard me as I fumbled with the posts, trying to take them off. I didn't want a lame costume. I thought it was cool and that people would like it. I liked it. Now, I wasn't sure. I finally got both of them off and stuck the studs in my pocket.
Afterwards, I just stood there, not really knowing what to do. I clutched the blanket even tighter to me. I just wanted to sit in a corner. Perhaps suck my thumb more and tune out the world. I sighed.
A finger tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and saw my best friend, Alice, fumbling around with her unwieldly costume. She was a bar of soap and wore a box for a shirt, appropriately painted with balloons taped to the corners for suds. She carried a few helium filled ones that floated behind her and got caught in things. It was wonderfully clever and I loved the costume.
"Hey, is Kathy saying bad things about your costume."
I'm speechless and can only nod.
"Well, I think you make a cool Linus." She smiled. Her face was still very round from the baby fat that she hadn't lost yet. Even after shedding many pounds many years later to a fairly average size, she always kept a very round, welcoming smile. She pointed to the snack table. "Let's get something to eat, okay."
"Sure!" A tear formed in the corner of my eye. I'm not sure if it was residual sadness or happiness or relief but I rubbed it away and tried to forget about Kathy.
October 31st, 1984, evening
"Is it my turn to ring the bell or yours?" I turn to Alice with a questioning look.
In mid-chew. "Yours, I think." She continued eating one of the full-sized Snicker bars she got in her stash.
I grinned and turned to the door, scanning for the doorbell. I found it and pressed.
The door opens as Alice gets into position beside me. "Trick or treat!" we both yell out eagerly. An old man smiles at the door with a large bowl of candy. Good stuff in there and we both eye it greedily.
"Oh, how wonderful! A box of soap and..." the old man looked at me. "Let me guess. Linus!" He nearly drops the bowl in his excitement.
I was speechless. Alice spoke for me, "Yeah! The first one tonight! How did you guess?" She started picking through the bowl to get what she wanted.
"The blanket is a dead giveaway." He winks at me.
I smile back and look down at the bowl of treats trying to find one I would like. Snickers. Snickers. Big money. Big money.
"Take two!" the old man pushed the bowl further to us. "The most inventive costumes I've seen all night. Too many princesses this year."
"Yeah!" we scream in unison, taking two chocolates each. "Thanks a lot!"
"No, thank you! Now get going to your next stop." He gestured to the next house and we waved and ran (well, I ran and Alice waddled) to the next house. As I reach the end of his house's walkway, I look back and notice him smiling and waving from the window. I wave back.
Yes, it is a very good costume indeed.