Do you remember your earliest nightmare? Most of my waking life for the first five years I spent on this planet are pretty much a blur now, more a collage of family snapshots and the oft-repeated reminisces of others than genuine memories (and the blur’s borders creepingly extend more and more as time goes by). But I’m legitimately convinced that I can still call to mind the very first dream I ever had that not only scared me but stayed with me long after I woke to daylight, and I had it when I was around three or four years old. It didn’t have much of a plot per se, but the weird dream-specifics were these: I was at my grandparents’ house, it was Halloween, the doorbell rang, my grandmother opened the front door, and on the doorstep were three witches and a gorilla. And I hid in the coat closet in mortal terror.
At least I think it was a dream? The details are so mundane that all of that could have actually happened. And as I just admitted at the outset, I’m not great at reliably retrieving my pre-K memories as it is. It’s possible that something like that went down, and then subsequently was transliterated into my dreams. One might wonder what my parents were doing letting me stay up late enough on Halloween at age three to see the bigger, scarier trick-or-treaters, but as I’ve pointed out before, my parents fell somewhere between indulgent and not-altogether-paying-attention much of the time.
More evidence of that? I was just reading an amusing A.V.Club article about Halloween costumes gone wrong which included one staffer confessing to creating a homemade Red Skull costume as a kid – the Red Skull being an adversary of Captain America also created in the 40’s and thus totally a Nazi supervillain as well. I never had a homemade Red Skull costume, but I did once rock the Ben Cooper version of the nefarious Johann Schmidt. (Granted, just the fact that such a thing was commercially available reflects at least as poorly on the judgment of the vinyl-smiths of Ben Cooper, Inc. as on my parents.) Another year I trick-or-treated in the Ben Cooper version of the H.R. Geiger alien from the Ridley Scott flick. That one baffles me to this day; of course as a seven-year-old I had read Captain America comics but I definitely had not seen Alien. (My parents were slack but COME ON.) I don’t even know how I was aware of the existence of the movie Alien. Probably from ads on the backs of comic books.
My own personal worst Halloween costume (using the “lamest” definition of “worst”) would probably be “spaceman”. This was in ninth or tenth grade, when some friends convinced me to go trick-or-treating at the last minute and I had to figure out a way to shield myself from the “get the F out of here” opprobrium that suburbanites (rightly) rain down on teenagers who don’t dress up at all and go door-to-door candy-begging. So I wore snow boots, blue jeans, a black hoodie and the helmet-and-chestplate-and-gun apparatus from the Photon system that had been all the rage, oh, four years earlier.
I’m pretty sure those snow boots – or moon boots as I seem to remember calling them – were the single piece of real-world clothing that got the most secondary use as Halloween costume elements in my entire life. The year before the Photon-repurposing Halloween I created a bizarre hybrid superhero/grim reaper costume out of the snow boots, blue sweats, a black cape and a skull mask. (Yeah I was 14, I don’t know either.) And when I was a senior in high school one of my red-headed classmates took it into her head to dress as Ariel from the Little Mermaid and get together an entourage of friends as the supporting cast (Flounder, Scuttle, Sebastian, Ursula, etc.) because the senior class costume contest had a “best group” division. You would think that we were still in fifth grade because the poor girl couldn’t find a guy to be her Prince Eric, as if no one wanted to catch cooties from being in a group otherwise composed entirely of girls. So even though I wasn’t the best of friends with this girl, and I knew I was not her first choice, I went along: white button-down shirt, one of my mom’s red scarfs as a waist-sash, blue jeans, snow boots. This selfless act of Halloween enabling did not, as I recall, win us the best group prize. Nor did this get me any play with the Disney-loving ladies in question. But at least it gave me a sweet random Halloween/snow boots anecdote.