No Halloween costume for me this year. I’m still getting in character for my new everyday role as a widower. But my time will come around again, and meanwhile I’m thinking of the costumes I wore in the past.
The earliest costume I remember was a cowboy, put together when I was four or five., under the influence of Lone Ranger episodes, whose introduction I knew by heart. I was under the belief that the costume would actually disguise me, and was bitterly disappointed when people had no trouble recognizing me.
The next costume I remember was a monk’s habit, salvaged from a play in Grade Two that never happened. To my outrage, I had been cast as Friar Tuck when my destiny was clearly to play Robin Hood, or at the very least Little John. But, next Halloween, I added a skull mask to the costume. I remember in my juvenile cunning, I figured that, if I took off the mask, I would have a completely different costume, and could go around to the houses twice without anyone noticing. I was right, too, although my conscience kicked in after the fourth or fifth house and I stopped the deception while keeping the candy.
Treasure Island must have produced a pirate or two, because I remember a plywood cutlass that my father cut out for me and spray painted silver. But the next costume I remember clearly was the remnants of my Cowardly Lion costume from the Grade Five production of The Wizard of Oz. I had loved acting, and using the costume for Halloween was a way of hanging on to the excitement of the production a little longer.
Then came the age when I thought myself too old for trick or treating. It started in Grade Seven and lasted until my second year at university. By then, I was in the medieval club, and used to dressing in costume most weekends. But for medievalists, Samhain, the Celtic predecessor of Halloween, was always a major event. Once or twice, I simply went in my usual persona of Ullr Ericsunu, the Icelandic farmer sojourning at the court of Athelraed Unraed in England.
But for Samhain and other events, I also created a minor persona of Alain d’Alancote, a small-time Breton merchant living in York, so I would have an excuse to wear fourteenth century costumes with dagged hems and sleeves. Alain was born of the medievalist custom of coming to Samhain as an ancestor or descendant of your main persona – although how exactly Ullr and Alain were related, I never quite figured out.
However, Ullr and Alain disappeared when I left medievalist circles, and so, for the most part, did the costumes. I remember once pulling on a farmer’s smock that Trish made for me, and lugging along Ullr’s shepherd crook, which became a nuisance by the end of the evening.
Right now, I have no idea what my life will be like next Halloween. But, judging from my enjoyment of the costumes I’ve seen on the Skytrain in the last few days, I suspect I will be spending it in costume – and about time, part of me is muttering.