Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A hometown Halloween


By JOELLEN COLLINS

This Halloween, I had the pleasure of watching the festivities in Hailey, where hundreds of families shared the streets and trick-or-treated at the businesses in town. While I spent most of the time at the Liberty Theatre watching the Company of Fools' costume contest, I took joy in seeing the mood of a small town and a time when everyone celebrated together. Huzzahs to the merchants, police and citizens of Hailey for such a happy afternoon. The whole event seemed, well, wholesome and innocent and stirred memories of past Halloweens.

I spent many Halloweens at work over the past few years observing young children at The Community School. I miss being there for their parade, delighting in the fifth grade witches' contest, and reading fortunes in my darkened office as Madame Blatvatsky. I lament the absence of children knocking on the door of my condominium.

My favorite childhood costume was the one I wore for first grade at Columbus Elementary School in San Francisco. I loved being Betsy Ross so much that I refused to take off my wig; the consequences were one of the few punishments I ever received from my doting parents. Later, in a relatively wholesome teenage life, my boyfriend and I went as Raggedy Ann and Andy to a huge high school party. I see that picture and think what a good sport he was. It doesn't embarrass me because that image is so reflective of the rather naive way friends behaved. We had the stereotypical life of kids in that era: Friday nights tooling around Bob's Drive In in North Hollywood, my daddy who went to every school sports activity he could manage, the big date of dressing up for a movie on Hollywood Boulevard at The Egyptian or Grauman's Chinese Theaters.

I spent many hours over many years sewing Halloween costumes for my two daughters. One of them preferred last-minute concoctions, although the time she and a girlfriend trick-or-treated in Malibu as a three-legged monster was disastrous. Her friend got tired very early and quit after about three houses, leaving my daughter alone to continue on, dangling the extra furry leg behind her. The last costume I ever made was my swan song, a full replica of Princess Diana's wedding dress. While it was elaborate with puffy sleeves and a long train, my younger daughter's best friend, who was Prince Charles, didn't enjoy the duo as much as my daughter did. She was a good sport, though, reflected in photos showing her brave smile in a blue blazer festooned with medals to resemble the military garb Charles wore. I'll always love her for her show of friendship to my little princess.

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Again this year, I noticed how many little boys were spacemen or bandits or cowboys or icky creatures. Most of the girls, certainly the tinier ones, were adorably arrayed in sparkles and princess outfits and angel's wings. One can debate how gender roles are still evident in the way kids dress up when they (or their parents) have a chance to fantasize.

I am happy that I will have the chance to see this holiday and many others through the eyes of my new grandson. I believe creativity has a component of childlike wonder. The chance to dress up and be someone else is appealing as a momentary escape into fantasy. What better time for this silliness than even a sometimes overdone and commercially repetitive glut of orange-and-black decor?

Sometimes we need to be silly. I was in San Francisco a couple of years ago and went out on Halloween for an elegant dinner with my closest friends. Just before the Golden Gate Bridge, my girlfriend insisted her husband turn around and go back to their hillside home in Sausalito. Seems she had left her witch's hat and felt naked in the city without that dramatic accessory—fitting, as San Francisco is similarly flamboyant. One Saturday I was sitting at the Cafe Trieste on a crisp afternoon in North Beach. We often went there when I visited to hear the impromptu opera performances offered by the popular Italian spot. A young man clad in purple velvet and sporting a huge Three Musketeers hat tapped me on the shoulder. Would I, he requested, please watch his sword for him while he ordered cappuccino? That's San Francisco.

So here's to some frivolity and donning of masks. Anyone want a fortune read?






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