Photo by: Shutterstock

Anything but Fred!

Photo by: Shutterstock

There we stood: the hobo, the circus clown with the red SOS pad hair tuffets, Casper the friendly ghost, and Fred Flintstone.

My Colombian family had not been in this country long enough to understand the essential childhood nuances of Halloween trick-or-treating in the 1960s, especially for a girl. Things like:

My Trick or Treat Dream List

  • My costume will be homemade, glittery and have netting somewhere.
  • My trick-or-treat candy bag will be homemade and glittery to match my costume.

My ‘Please, Dear God’ Basics List

  • My costume will fit me.
  • My costume is one for a girl (since I’m a girl).
  • I should be able to go with friends, and not all of my siblings.

My Colombian Child’s ‘Lord. Kill Me Now’ List

  • I am sent out into the dark night with a plastic baggie full of pennies to pay the person giving out candy so that no one can say I took it from them.
  • I have to go trick-or-treating with my non-English speaking parents only five feet away, asking one hundred times, “Que es eso?” for every candy I get, and end up translating for both sides – the giver and the getter – what I got and who gave it to me.

My parents did not understand trick-or-treat, and as painful as it was to go along with all the un-Americanism they threw into it, my three siblings and I begged to be allowed to join the neighborhood children on this most exciting of nights.

Halloween in the late 1960′s went on in the pitch black of night. We explained to our mother that we would need costumes. Times back then were charming; costumes were sold at local five-and-dime stores, boxed with a cellophane peek hole so you could see what was inside.

While my parents were out buying our costumes on Halloween day, we watched and waited for their return; all four of us squeezed against the front room window. Oh, the hope we still had that somehow, our mother and father would come through for us and walk in with the alter-egos of our dreams.

When they finally came home, we attacked them at the door. Diving into the Ben Franklin Craft Shop bag, we held up the four boxes and stared at the masks looking up at us from their cozy see-through homes. Sadly, the hollow-eyed plastic faces staring back were no one we wanted to spend time being…ever.

Our choices for the night were Mr. 5 o’clock shadow Hobo Man; white-faced Bozo the Clown with blood-red cream puffs for hair; Casper; and the ugly Fred Flintstone.

Where was Snow White? Where was Superman? Where was Cinderella?

All I could think was, “God in heaven, why is this my life?” Followed by what I’d been saying to myself for years by that point, “Oh well, let’s just do this.”

Would it surprise you if I told you that the only costume that fit me was Fred?

Well, at least we wouldn’t be fighting over the least mentally harmful visage, as cute, dimple-cheeked Casper came home in size 4T.

We ‘suited up,’ pulling on the pre-flame retardant regulation nylon costumes that could instantly take you from Little Red Riding Hood to the Human Torch if you got anywhere near a parent’s lit cigarette.

My grandmother shook her head, muttering the words “Tricker Tree,” and sighing about the silliness of it all as she tied the strings at the top of our costumes into a double knot.

Does anyone remember those stiff plastic masks with the skinniest of elastic bands stapled into place and scarcely any room for a European-sized nose behind it?

Remember the way your hot breath would turn the non-breathable plastic into a Scandinavian steam room within seconds of stepping out into the cold night? While your hands, toes and ears were freezing, your face would be getting a hot springs beauty treatment.

And those half-inch horizontal eye slits cut into the masks that they allowed vision? I still remember looking down and getting my eyelashes caught on the sharp plastic edges. To this day, I thank the God of Corneal Abrasions for sparing my eyesight.

Looking at a picture of us on this night, years later, I see us lined up (tallest to cutest) right before we left the house: Fred (me), Hobo (brother), Bozo (brother), and Casper (baby sister). I look at this picture and relive the feeling of resignation to my lot in life. Equal parts anger, mixed with despair. Fred Flintstone?! What if someone from school in a lovingly hand-sewn, pink sparkly princess costume saw me? Not only was I store-bought, but gender incorrect, too.

If only that were where the story stopped. We were also sent out into the night with a bag of pennies so that no one could come back and say we TOOK the candy from them.

Why? Because we lived by The Colombian motto, “Expect revenge from everyone, and give no one a reason to say you owe them something.”


Tricker Tree! It’s Fred Flintstone, your Colombian friend. Can I give you a penny for that Peanut Butter cup?

Do you remember your Worst.Halloween.Ever?

Alexandra writes of life as the mother of three boys on her personal blog, Good Day, Regular People.

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