Thursday, December 15, 2005

Halloween Day

Halloween Day by Stacey Greenberg
“Sugar High” Photo by Jennifer Judd-McGee

Last year, I sat in the amphitheater at the Zoo Boo costume contest holding my six-month-old strawberry in my lap as my two-and-a-half-year-old Elvis stood on stage with his father. My husband, a big fan of Halloween, made his Elvis costume. Satchel looked like the king incarnate in his sparkly white bell-bottoms, white turtleneck decorated with a glittery “TCB” (Taking Care of Business) and a lightening bolt, sequined cape, rhinestone-studded sunglasses with sideburns attached, and blue suede tennis shoes. I looked at the other kids in line—several princesses, a bumblebee, a Jedi, two pandas and other assorted animals—and felt an imminent win.

We started going to Zoo Boo at my mother’s urging. She had been taking my sister’s kids for years and said it was “the” place to go for Halloween. Like birthdays, Halloween seems to occupy more than just one day. So now we go to one of six scheduled Zoo Boos (and pay $12 per person to get “free” candy from Corporate Sponsored booths littered throughout the animal exhibits) and then do our traditional trick-or-treating on the actual day. October 31st is all about candy and fun, Zoo Boo is all about having the best costume…and candy and fun.

Two years ago, for our first foray to Zoo Boo, Warren spent a week making Satchel a black cat costume. (He did this out of his love for Halloween, completely unaware of the contest.) Satchel had a fuzzy hat with ears, a black turtleneck body suit, black tights, a tail, and face paint. At the Zoo Boo costume contest, Satchel was more interested in crawling across the stage than standing in line. Nevertheless the judges seemed impressed when I told them that it was my husband who made the costume and not me (and that the black cat was a boy and not a girl). When Satchel made it to the final round, we couldn’t help feeling a bit thrilled. Satchel came in third behind a little girl dressed like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and a two-year-old Sid Vicious wannabe sporting a Mohawk, a sleeveless plaid flannel shirt, an anarchy tattoo, and a fuck you attitude.

Third prize was something insignificant, like $5 off in the Zoo gift shop. Second prize was $10 off. The Grand Prize was getting to feed the sea lions on a Saturday. The Grand Prize sounded cool, but we just wanted to “win.” Not in a there will be no candy or joy for anyone if we don’t win sort of way, but if Satchel won the contest we could pat ourselves on the back and say, “We did it! We are good parents! The Zoo Boo Judges said so!”

As the emcee came down the line, talking to each contestant, my little Elvis cowered behind his daddy. The emcee looked impressed by his costume and loudly announced, “It’s the King of Rock-n-Roll!” Warren smiled as Satchel disappeared behind his legs. I watched nervously as the judges jotted down their remarks. The emcee went on to the next contestant and I looked on in horror as the little store-bought, asshole bumble bee chased him across the stage shaking her butt and squealing, “I’m going to sting you!”

Guess who won?

Hoping for a “third time’s the charm,” Warren and I started devising a strategy for this year. We know now that we not only need an original outfit, we need an “awww”-inspiring performance. We decided to recycle Satchel’s seersucker suit from Easter, buy a red bow tie, hair gel, and the Pee Wee’s Playhouse DVD box set for inspiration. “Being Pee Wee” should be easy—Satchel naturally has a silly laugh and goofy dance moves.

What is that saying about best-laid plans?

Every so often Satchel announces, “On Halloween day, I’m going to wear a Power Ranger Helmet, a Darth Vader suit, and Buzz Lightyear shoes.” (Last year he got his Elvis costume so dirty at Zoo Boo he ended up trick-or-treating in jeans, the top portion of a ladybug costume, and a tie-dyed superhero cape, smartly accessorized with a light saber.) I smile, tell him that his costume sounds cool, and wonder if dressing him up like Pee Wee Herman will be a battle of wills. Will my husband and I shrug and say, “Who cares about winning a stupid contest?” Or will we bribe him with candy (or threaten him with the boogey-man) in order to do our bidding?

If Satchel doesn’t cooperate, we can still woo the judges with his little brother, Jiro. I’m thinking old-school Oompa Loompa...

Or maybe we’ll just skip the contest all together and focus on the candy and fun part.

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