Memories Out of Season


They were politically incorrect years, the fifties.

It’s Halloween, 1955, and I’m an Indian brave. Being only seven years old, I don't realize that I am politically incorrect.

I love the costume my mother has made for me from a gunnysack. It’s like buckskin, I'm sure. I feel authentic: a headdress of feathers, war paint on my face, armed with my rubber knife, bow and arrow. The arrows have little suction cups--which is kind of inauthentic--but they are also poisoned tipped arrows.

If I am a politically incorrect Indian brave, my four-year old brother is even more politically incorrect. He’s dressed as an Indian squaw—gunnysack dress, long black braids, lipstick. What were my parents thinking?

In my imagination I am Cochise. I am Geronimo, I am Hiawatha. It’s a little embarrassing that I have to have Pocahontas for a brother.

What if my friends see me? How am I going to explain that my brother’s a cross dresser?

We head out on our hunting expedition in the true spirit of Halloween. If someone doesn’t give us a treat, I will shoot them with my bow and poisoned-tipped arrows.

We first go to the Shapiro’s house. Mr. Shapiro comes to the door.

“Trick or treat!” we shout.

“Oh, my goodness!” says Mr. Shapiro, expressing true surprise, probably at the political incorrectness of our costumes, and he gives us each an apple.

An apple? Apples I can get at home. Maybe I’ll shoot him anyway.

Hiding our disappointment, we thank him politely and go next door to the Gardners.

“Trick or treat!”

“Oh, how adorable,” says Mrs. Gardner.

Adorable? I’m insulted. I’m a fierce Apache Comanche Blackfoot warrior, with some Cherokee blood. How dare she call me adorable?

She gives each of us a cellophane-wrapped rhubarb crisp that she baked herself, she tells us. The rhubarb came from her very own garden.

I want to say, what about a Milky Way candy bar from your very own supermarket? But Mom’s standing behind us.

Apples and rhubarb somethings. What’s next—a broccoli strudl from Mrs. Heinsch across the street? It wasn’t shaping up to be a memorable Halloween. In fact, I don’t remember much more about that night.

It was only years later that I recalled this experience, when accompanying my young nephews and niece on their trick or treat expedition. At least they didn’t have to worry about being politically correct. They were all little Jedi knights.