Halloween was her favorite holiday.
When she was a kid, her costumes revolved around veils. If her parents had ever complimented her, they might have bragged about how creative she was this time of year. From “mysterious gypsy”, to “magical genie”, to “beautiful, but very, very shy bride” she was never at a loss for ideas. By their execution, you could see she took this holiday seriously – the seams were perfect and the accessories so credible, it was hard to believe you were looking at someone’s Halloween get up.
She loved trick-or-treating. Where other children looked forward to the candy that would be tossed into their plastic jack-o-lanterns or orange pillow cases, she eagerly anticipated something else entirely.
“Oh, don’t you look beautiful”
“What a darling little girl”
“Well, aren’t you precious?”
It was a delight when the stranger at the door was so impressed that they would invite other admirers to join them on the front porch. “Grandma, come out here”, they would call out. “You have to see this!”
She collected these compliments, tucking them into the vast recesses of her psyche. On rare occasions, she would pull one out and allow it to bolster her ego for a moment or two. More commonly, these little remarks of praise would jump out on their own, defending her against especially nasty insults.
If she was lucky, she had enough to last her the whole year.
Her needs changed as the years went by, and Halloween followed suit. The veil was set aside and she no longer focused on “pretty”. Instead, the ideas she brought to fruition balanced somewhere between kind of gruesome and interestingly weird.
Meticulous as ever, she spent weeks making sure every detail was executed with precision. More importantly, she scoured bulletin boards and social networking sites to find a Halloween party she could crash. For her evening to go as planned, it was important that no one would recognize her.
The butterflies in her stomach would have been unbearable when readying herself to crash a complete stranger’s party had she not been completely confident in her costume. Looking in the mirror before such an event usually calmed her. After some moisturizer and lip gloss, she was ready to greet whatever this Halloween had to offer.
She had learned to not knock. Walking in unannounced gave her a chance to examine the layout of the place. Was there a low-lit, unoccupied loveseat somewhere?
Once she found her seat, she made herself known somehow. After a slightly too-loud laugh, or a quick compliment to someone else’s attempt at dressing up, all she had to do was wait.
“Where did you get that?”
“Wow! That costume is something else!”
“How did you ever think that up?”
After the initial barrage of compliments there was a bit more waiting to be done. And then. Sure enough.
“Mind if I sit down?”
The conversation was always such a treat. She was well read and interesting, but other times of year people didn’t seem to notice. The butterflies would often return at this point, but they were of an entirely different sort. Anticipation. She knew she could count on curiosity.
“How did you get the makeup so perfect?”
Much like someone expecting a goodnight kiss, she closed her eyes as her couch companion’s hand reached toward her face. The warmth of him soaked into her and she hoped he could feel how soft her skin was.
She knew what to expect upon opening her eyes. His expression would change – moving somewhere from curiosity to understanding. And then to pity.
Sometimes the conversation had been gripping enough that they were both held in place for the rest of the evening. In fact, some of her closest friends had been made on Halloween. Other times she was just as eager as her sofa-mate to make an excuse and get up.
Regardless of how the evening turned, she would leave the party with her virtual plastic jack-o-lantern full. That look – the one of understanding – was always exactly enough to carry her through to the next Halloween.