20. October 2005 · Comments Off on DOD Halloween/Overseas · Categories: Domestic, General, Home Front · Tags: , , , , ,

Dressing up the kidlets in cute costumes and going around to all the neighbors begging for candy and treats was – I was initially given to understand – a uniquely American custom, not withstanding Grandpa Jim’s tales of pranks in his Irish youth, involving outhouses and livestock in inappropriate places.
I should have guessed that for kids and candy, any excuse would do, and expected the deluge of savvy little scroungers at my first apartment, the first place I lived on my own, with my baby daughter, after moving out of the women’s barracks at Misawa AB, but I didn’t. I was caught flat-footed and unprepared, at my tiny place in the R housing area, just outside the POL gate, when ravenous hordes of Japanese grade-schoolers began knocking at the door after sun-down on October 31st, shrilling, “Gomen-nesi, trickertreet!” I emptied the refrigerator of fresh fruit – oranges were very popular in Japan, being expensive imported items, and then I began to cut up a slab of chocolate into two-inch squares, wrapping them in aluminum foil – and when that was gone, I turned out the lights, and took my baby daughter to the sitter, and myself to work the overnight TV shift. I can’t recall why I happened to have a slab of Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut the size of a roofing shingle, but post-natal depression probably had a lot to do with it.
After that point, Halloween, per se, didn’t become an issue for another five years, after we had moved back to the States for a bit, and then I did a tour in Greenland and we went to Greece, and thence to Spain. Blondie started kindergarten at the Zaragoza AB school, and Halloween was a very, very, very big deal there.

It was not just the tricker-treating, which was carried out in the base housing areas, those little chips of American suburbia planted in a far distant land, which knew nothing of begging for candy on All Hallows’ Eve, with small children toddling from door to door, and porch to porch, with a guardian parent lurking just beyond the circle of porchlight, hissing encouragement to say properly “Trick or Treat” and reminders to say “Thank You!” All the children who lived off of the base, in Zaragoza city proper, or in Garrapinellos, or La Bombarda, or San Lamberto – their parents brought them to the base housing area for tricker-treating. Those of us who lived on the economy were strongly encouraged to buy and donate bags of candy, which would be distributed to base housing occupants. I would dutifully drop off my generous contribution at the Youth Center, and on Halloween, take Blondie on the limited circuit of officer housing – a neat circuit of about thirty houses, just enough for about an hour without feeling greedy. The Base Commander for some of our time there had the set of armor from the AAFES catalogue, which was set out by the front door with a candle in the helmet – this was always a big hit with the kids.

The costume I made for Blondie for a number of years there was also a big hit, for several years running. One of the unsung benefits of living at an overseas base was that one could keep wearing the same evening gown – or Halloween costume for several years in sequence. Well, people were always moving on; the odds were that very few people would remember the same gown or costume by the next year. Blondie wore this one for three years – as long as her feet stayed the same size.

I bought the pattern for this particular costume at the BX, about the time that the movie The Wizard of Oz, the original 1939 production was shown as a special matinee in the base theater. I took my daughter and her best friend to see it, both of them overseas military brats who had never, ever, seen it on television. I have heard that the seats in theaters that premiered The Wizard of Oz had to be reupholstered afterwards because so many children wet them in fright (or was that Snow White?) and I wouldn’t have believed it – but for the reaction of Blondie and her friend, and other children in the theater that Saturday afternoon, to judge from the cries and sobbing. The Witch and the flying monkeys scared the crap out of them all – theatrical cackling, wicked black costume and orange smoke. Such an old movie – but to a new audience, it still had an awesome, terrifying power.

The costume? I dressed Blondie as Dorothy, of course; a white and blue gingham pinafore dress, with her hair braided and tied up in red ribbons; but the crowning touch was the shoes. When I was buying the materials for the dress in the BX, my eyes fell upon a display of craft materials; a sort of glue-glitter in various colors. “Ah-ha!” I thought. I bought a couple of tubes of red, and a container of red shoe dye. I marched my daughter off to the thrift store, where I bought a pair of flat-heeled pumps that fit her. Her feet were the fastest-growing part about her at that stage of life. At the age of 10, her shoe-size was the same as mine. Me on my knees at church of a Sunday: “Please, God, don’t let her feet grow any bigger!” She topped out at size 9, which shoe saleswomen have told me is about average, now that women have stopped being vain and opted for comfort.

I dyed the pumps with the red shoe dye, and then covered them with the red glue-glitter substance – the Ruby Slippers! They looked just like the shoes from the movie, and everyone knew, as soon as they saw them, what my daughter was dressed as.
I think we gave the costume to the daughter of a co-worker, when Blondie outgrew it – I think the ruby shoes went with it, although I can’t be entirely sure – there are so many things that one leaves behind over a career in the military. The Ruby Slippers were looking a bit tatty when last I saw them, but they still looked good.