Confession: I don’t know what 9 + 4 equals.
The natural answer to this equation has always been 12 to me. 9 + 3 = 11 also feels natural. Perhaps I was distracted the week our class learned 9’s. Either way, I don’t trust my knowledge of them and therefore must finger-count every time I come across these equations.
My brain may be useless when it comes to sums of 9, but I DO have an accurate recollection of every Halloween costume I’ve every worn:
- Age 3: Cyndi Lauper
- Pre-K: Witch
- Kindergarten: Punk rocker
Black cat, princess, vampire…the following years held the usual Halloween guises.
Except 4th grade.
Fourth grade was the year I dressed up as The Grim Reaper. I was extremely proud of this Halloween costume for two reasons. One, Momma had sewn the grey-green cloak a couple years earlier for my sister and now it was my turn to wear the big-kid costume. Two, part of the costume included a super-rad sickle which Momma fashioned from an old rake handle, cardboard, foil and tape.
Halloween was on a Thursday that year, and I just couldn’t wait to show off my costume at school. As I rubbed black paint around my eyes, I tried to recall the official name of the ghoul I was supposed to be. Time and education has provided adult Mrs. Smith with the proper title, but as 10-year-old, er, Mrs. Smith all I could come up with was: The Shearer. After all, isn’t that what one used a sickle for? To shear? In the end I figured it didn’t really matter…until I boarded the school bus.
Cool! Who are you supposed to be? kids shouted.
“I’m The Shearer,” I answered, waving my sickle at them.
After getting off the bus, I went to join the other ghouls and goblins on the playground. Again, I was greeted by questions:
Are you a ghost?
“No, I’m the, um, Shearer?” I answered hesitantly, the title sounding more and more incorrect each time I said it. Thankfully, once we all shuffled into the classroom, my teacher told me she thought my Grim Reaper costume was pretty cool.
That’s who I was! The Grim Reaper. I was the GRIIIIIM REEEEAP-ER. Grim reaper, grim reaper, grim reaper. I would surely remember the title now.
Several hours later, I was trick-or-treating. Holding a basket of candy in one hand and a rake handle in the other for blocks at a time was tiring, but I was triumphant after receiving so much praise for my creepy costume. As a way to celebrate my fresh batch of confidence, I decided to chance the last house where a group of high school boys were passing out candy from the back of a truck. Had I been dressed as some dinky princess, I would have never been brave enough to approach the party. As the Grim Raper, however, I could be courageous. After all, it’s not every day that a fourth-grader gets the chance to impress big, loud high-school boys. The minute I walked up to the truck bed, I was immediately rewarded for my bravery:
Wow! Badass costume! Who are you supposed to be?
This was my moment.
In my coolest tone, I announced: “I’m The Grim Raper.”
To my horror, wicked grins spread across their faces and they immediately started cackling and jabbing each other.
Did you hear that guys? This little girl claims she’s a raper! Ha! Do you even know what rape is?
My insides melted. The last thing any fourth-grader wants is to be laughed at and mocked by a group of big, loud high-school boys. Too mortified to grab candy, I stole away and called it a night.
After such a fiasco, you’d think I’d never don that cloak again. That would have been the smart thing to do, but, then again, I’ve always chosen sentimentality over practicality. And so in 6th grade I pulled out the Grim Reaper costume once more as a way to celebrate my last year of trick-or-treating. The only problem was Halloween fell on a Saturday that year, and I wasn’t sure if my classmates would wear costumes to school Friday. But then I remembered the 1st grade when I decided not to wear my costume to school and how disappointed I felt watching everyone else having fun in theirs. With that recollection, I threw on the billowy white dress and reaper’s cloak. The sickle, however, I left at home. Wouldn’t want to stick out too much.
I should have just worn jeans and a t-shirt because no one else in my class dressed up. I felt like a total boob in that get-up and tried to ignore the smirks on my classmates’ faces. It’s amazing how much the rules change from 4th to 6th grade. When you’re 10, wearing a costume to school is the coolest thing about school. When you’re 12, wearing a costume to school means you probably still wet the bed.
At the end of the season, Momma would pile all Halloween items in a big box and place it in the closet. After 6th grade, I never rummaged through that box again so I never knew what became of that old Reaper costume. I’m sure it’s being used to tie up someone’s tomato plants now. But what that someone doesn’t know is that their garden is being held together by the world’s greatest Halloween costume, a costume that will help them rape a bountiful harvest.