The first time I was allowed to go trick or treating by myself was a pretty huge deal. For years, I was going along with my little sister (and often one of the foster children my parents took in), and while it certainly wasn't a bad experience (getting candy as a child is never a bad experience), being trusted with the responsibility of being out without needing a parent right beside me was a pretty huge deal.
I felt completely grown up for that brief moment when they told me I could go ahead of my sister. There were lots of parents and other children around. It was the 80s, so nobody was really paranoid about anything bad happening. I knew where the limits of where I could go were.
And then...it all went wrong.
I had a homemade costume that my mother made me. I was a California Raisin, a series of characters I loved, though today I couldn't ever tell you why I loved them so much. I mean, they were raisins. I didn't hate raisins, but considering all the other great characters out there, why did I like these guys so much?
Anyway, here's a picture of me in all my raisin glory along with my sister and one of the other kids who stayed with us often. ...that sounds wrong, somehow, "one of the other kids who stayed with us." Our family always loved being able to provide just a bit of help when we could, and one of the families we provided some help to became very close to ours.
Anyway, here's my awesome costume (thanks again, mom!):
If we had cell phones back then like we have now, there would undoubtedly be video of my lip syncing to Heard It Through The Grapevine and trying to walk like an Egyptian or spin my arms in that side-step dance they used to do.
It was (and still is) my favorite Halloween costume that I can remember. It wasn't something linked to my sister, it wasn't too fancy, it was my costume of a character I really liked and one that was made with love, not sweatshop labor in China.
And then one little girl ruined it all for one night.
I was doing my thing, getting my "trick or treat" on, and to be fair, it was night time. There were a lot of kids walking around getting candy. And this kid was pretty small. She was young enough that even at my young age, she was still maybe only 3/4 my size. It was late for her, she could easily have been tired, and her mother was hurrying her along so maybe all she got was a glimpse out of the corner of her eye.
All I knew was that every adult seemed to love my costume (a trick I've since learned to do once I started handing out candy), and every adult knew what it was immediately. Either that, or they were really clever and tricked me to say what it was so they could claim they knew it all along.
But I digress. I was riding an emotional high at that point. I had a ... I don't remember if I was doing plastic pumpkins as trick or treat bags at that time, but I think I was. But anyway, I was getting ready to go to the next house, I was holding my sunglasses because I was young, not stupid, and then this little girl passes by me. This sweet little girl, who had no idea what she was about to do.
"Look, mommy, a gorilla!"
I stopped, standing there in the middle of the street, blinking at what had just happened. A gorilla. My costume wasn't a gorilla. My costume was a singing, dancing raisin. How could she mistake my costume for a gorilla? Gorillas have necks, my raisin clearly didn't have a neck. Gorillas are covered in fur, another thing my costume lacked. Gorillas don't wear sneakers, I was wearing sneakers (with apparently yellow laces if that image is to be believed).
My costume was great. Gorillas were ugly, hairy things. She thought my costume was a gorilla. She thought...she thought my costume was ugly?!
Now, maybe the parent corrected her as they kept walking. "No, sweetie, that's a California Raisin, a cultural icon that revitalized the flagging raisin industry in the United States and later starred in an Emmy-winning holiday special singing Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. They'll go on to be one of the most successful and iconic advertising campaigns in history, with records, action figures, and toys released at restaurants all the way into the 2000s. That is not a gorilla, and if you think that, then I've clearly failed you as a mother."
It could've happened.
In the meantime, I was distraught. I didn't want to be trick or treating by myself any more, I wanted my mother or father there to explain to the parent that what their daughter said hurt my feelings. I was afraid that maybe that's all anybody else on the street saw was a goofy gorilla costume instead of the raisin costume I loved so much. I was holding back tears, the saddest, hunched over raisin you ever saw. I was happy I had my sunglasses for the next couple of houses because I was pretty sure I rubbed my eyes red with my gloves. I managed to pull myself together, but I remember telling my parents about the little girl once I got home and still being really upset.
I mean, obviously I was upset, I've held on to this incident for at least twenty years!
It's still my favorite costume.