Story and photos by Emily Smith
Trick or treat. Smell my feet. Give me something good to eat!
You can smell it in the air, folks, as our clocks prepare to fall back offering us that extra hour of sleep, the sharp autumn air slaps our flushed cheeks and the falling leaves beckon colder nights, reminding us that our beloved, festive Halloween is just around the corner!
I remember the yearly excitement surrounding Oct. 31 at the Smith household quite well. My parents, sisters and I would pull out mounds of our trusty Halloween decorations, marred with scotch tape from years of prior display, and soon cardboard cutouts of witches and skeletons would adorn every window and door. Decorating came in early October and was followed by the carving of pumpkins with my dad mid-month. While decorating the house and carving jack-o-lanterns were loads of fun, this lady has always gotten her kicks from altering her persona! Enter Halloween. Dressing up is the name of the game, and I, dear friends, have always been in it to win it.
During the late ’70s, a sassy, blonde preschooler, I became part of an ongoing costume legacy, in partnership with my eldest sister, Adrienne, that lasted the better part of five years. Year after year, we continually donned the plastic formed likenesses of Sesame Street’s dynamic duo, Bert and Ernie. My Ernie costume fit like a glove and I believe, was actually made from the same material. I would spend hours in the mirror prior to trick-or-treating, starring into the eyes behind that hot, sweaty Ernie mask, poking my tongue through the breathing slit cut near the mouth. Eagerly, I awaited my opportunity to step into my thin, plastic jumpsuit that tied in the back and trove the streets as Ernie for candy.
Venturing out into the dark of night, anonymously costumed and in search of free candy seemed like a dream come true to Lil Emily. And who better to retrieve all that loot than a cheap, packaged dime store version of Bert’s better half? For years, I could think of no one but Ernie to fulfill that role.
Sooner than later, I grew out of my Sesame Street phase and into years of sporting homemade punk rockers and hippies, not to mention anything else that was socially acceptable during my “I’m just here to blend in” junior high years.
Sadly, I have also gone a Halloween or three without dressing up at all, which almost seems offensive to some diehard Halloween fanatics, including myself. My only defense being that the simple act of over-thinking my costume led to my ultimate demise. Decisions. Decisions.
This year, I found my costume (and costumes for friends who depend upon my shopping expertise) at local thrift stores, as I do every Halloween. Keeping my mind open to creative costumes possibilities, I rack my brain then scour the racks for ideas, assembling costumes in my mind, piece by piece, eventually finding what I need at a handful of secondhand stores. It is easy to do and ends up costing only a fraction of the price of those cheaply-made packaged costumes that truly are a-dime-a-dozen.
Ask any kid, from 3 to 93, and he’s sure to say that All Hallows Eve is among his favorite yearly celebrations. Halloween tends to bring out the child in all of us, reminding our busy minds and bodies of life’s simplest pleasures. Halloween evokes our carefree nature and allows us to be a kid again, if only for one glorious evening.
Although going door-to-door demanding candy is no longer an option for Adult Emily, I can still dress up with the best of ‘em. Plastic ’70s Ernie is long gone, but he remains ever present in spirit, reminding me every Halloween to be more creative, think outside the box and that somewhere deep inside, I have it in me to put together a snazzy and unique costume that he and Bert would be proud of!
A special thanks to Cheap Thrills and model Karen May.