In 1962, in Lima Ohio, my astronaut costume tried to kill me. It was only through sheer force of will that I made it through. And now I share this heroic tale of Halloween survival with you.
My Astronaut Costume Tried to Kill Me
Most of my friends and family get excited this time of year as Halloween approaches. Sometimes I feel a little like the odd man out, but I have good reason. As a child I almost lost my life during the snow-covered Halloween of ’62 in Lima, Ohio.
Okay, it wasn’t actually life-threatening, but it forced a nine-year-old boy into one of the hardest decisions he ever had to make.
Ohio weather in late October is anything but predictable. This particular Halloween came the day after a significant snowfall in my little home town. Temperatures were bitter cold. It was the first and only time that I can remember having to wear my winter coat over my costume. My mom would not give her approval for Trick or Treating, otherwise. Any other year, I wouldn’t have minded so much. But THIS year, I had received the coolest costume a kid my age could ask for. I couldn’t stand that all that coolness was going to be hidden under my big clunky wool coat.
The Coolest Costume Ever!
The costume was a thing of science fiction beauty. It was a NASA astronaut costume, complete with silvery fabric to simulate the Thinsulate material of the actual space suits. It had the usual mask that came with those costumes, held in place with that cheap rubber band. But in order to give the authenticity of a real astronaut’s helmet, it came with a thin piece of clear plastic that covered the front of the mask, representing the helmet’s faceplate. I was in heaven over that costume.
My sister, Dee was in charge of leading me around the neighborhood to do my Trick or Treating. Being six years older than me, I trusted that she knew all of the “good houses” in the area. You know, the ones with real, name-brand candy bars (maybe even full-sized!!!), and other quality goodies. I also trusted that she knew the less-desirable houses, famous for caramel apples, popcorn balls, and the dreaded “white bag”. I always suspected that those white bags held the horrible hard-candy left over from previous holidays.
Houston, We Have a Problem
Off we went, into the freezing, snow-covered night to collect my sugary rewards. Two steps down the driveway I already knew there was going to be an issue with my costume. Well, not so much the costume, as the mask. All of those masks had two tiny holes through which a child was expected to breath. What the genius designers of my costume forgot to allow for was the fact that my wonderful, “realistic” faceplate was stopping fresh air from getting to those two holes. To make matters worse, every time I exhaled into the cold night air, my mask would fog up and stop me from having the slightest idea of where I was, even in my own neighborhood.
I bravely continued on, as any good NASA Astronaut would. I allowed Dee to point me, blindly, at each front door. Soon, I discovered that if I just concentrated on heading toward the porch lights, I would eventually arrive somewhere in close proximity to the door. Then I would knock, yell “Trick or Treat” to whatever it was that opened the door. When I felt the goodies plop into the bottom of my bag, I knew it was time to follow Dee’s voice back to the sidewalk.
I knew that I could save myself all of this stress by simply removing my abhorrently-designed mask, but with my “coolest ever” costume already covered by layers of wool coat, what kind of Trick or Treat fraud would I be? I may as well have rung doorbells in my pajamas!
The Hero Makes it Home
The humiliation was just too much, so I soldiered on as the condensation inside my face plate slowly turned to ice. Eventually we made it back home. I was freezing and couldn’t wait to get into my flannel pajamas and mukluks. It wasn’t a bad haul as far as treats were concerned, but I never could shake the idea that I was the one who got “Tricked” by my own costume.
The Costume Curse Continued
The next Halloween had more typical weather, but by then I had outgrown my “cool” astronaut costume and it was replaced by a “moderately cool” pirate outfit, complete with eye patch. Thanks to that eye patch, I was eventually diagnosed with amblyopia and had to wear one full time for a while. It’s episodes like this that have caused me to anticipate Halloween with more anxiety than excitement. But I still love the candy!