Every year, I wanted to dress up as Barbie for Halloween. But rather than buy a blonde wig and some type of princess gown, we would go to the local K-Mart and buy a “Barbie Kit” which contained what looked like a crappy vinyl hair cutting cape with a dress painted on it and a plastic face mask. Don’t get me wrong, I really wanted that cheap-o costume because all the kids in school ran around in plastic “Ninja Turtles” or “Power Ranger” suits. It sure beat the heavyweight upholstery fabric my aunt used in prior years when constructing me so many couch-like costumes.
When I was about 8 or 9, I convinced my mom to let me be “Princess Barbie”. We got home with the costume and my mom immediately whipped out a pair of trusty scissors. For a moment, I was afraid that it was time for my Bowl Cut, but instead, she started cutting into the Barbie mask. She was convinced that the plastic mask would asphyxiate me, so she cut larger nostrils into the nose…and in case my nose was stuffy, she cut off the lips…and so I didn’t trip while I was walking, she cut open the eyes. Nagymama had to physically restrain me as I screamed “Don’t cut! Don’t cut!” as if Mom was amputating my freaking face.
Once she was done butchering Barbie, I glumly put on the costume; I was at least satisfied that she did not cut into the dress. But of course, since New Jersey is usually a bit chilly during Halloween, Nagymama made me bundle up and cover my entire costume. So, I basically went door to door wearing a peach-colored jagged piece of plastic strapped to my face with a piece of elastic, two layers of patched-up sweatpants, a Christmas turtleneck, and an oversized goose-down coat buttoned to my chin. This is how the door-to-door conversations should have went:
“And what’s your Halloween costume, little girl?”
“Formerly Barbie. But now I’m the creepy guy from Texas Chainsaw Massacre who straps people’s faces to his own face.”
“Oh, okay. Here, have some crappy Mary Janes, they’ve only been sitting around my candy dish for six months.”
Oh, the frustration.
So this Halloween, much like every other Halloween, Nagymama, mom, and I went over to our neighbor Gustaaf’s house for candy. And as always, he invited us inside. I hated going inside because their house always smelled like mothballs and old doilies, and he and Nagymama would talk to each other in Dutch for hours on end. After a few minutes, I stared to anxiously pace around the house because I wanted to go Trick-or-Treating.
Gustaaf’s 500-year-old wife, Olga, screamed after me, “Shit down, shit down, you run round too mush, I git you someting.” She disappeared into the kitchen.
I was scared because almost every other time I went over, Olga brought me out hideously bitter grapefruit juice that my mom would make me drink because it was “good for me”. This time, I was thrilled when she brought out what looked like a cold glass of soda. I took a fast gulp and nearly spit it everywhere. I must quote Ralph Wigum from “The Simpson’s” when I say, “It tasted like BURNING!”
Nagymama was not pleased with the faces I was making. “Drink it, you don’t want to be rude, do you?” she said in Hungarian, with her menacing, “I’mona get the fa kanál” stare.
So, I drank it. And the family talked some more. And Olga poured some more. And Nagymama stared some more. And I drank some more.
After some endless jabbering, Gustaaf finally reached into his wallet and pulled out a five-dollar bill, which was my “Treat” for this year. For a moment, I got excited thinking about how much candy I could buy with that $5! As I went to walk to him, I felt a little funny, and promptly fell over.
Oh, the chaos…
I was immediately picked up, ushered out, and brought home for fear of concussion. My mother deduced that fell because I could not see correctly in my mask and gotten my foot caught on my vinyl Barbie dress. In reality, it probably had something to do with the two-and-a-half Black Russians Olga had given me.
I didn’t get much candy that year. But I’m pretty sure I got a hangover in the morning.