My girlfriend was in a dither because at last, this divorcee had a date. He was a high school principal and a good catch for a young divorcee with a child. The invitation was for a "Halloween Fest - Wear a Costume." I had not worn a Halloween costume since I was a child breaking the ice off my mask on a wintry Michigan night, freezing in the cheap nylon costume of the day. Halloween meant blistery cold winds down the street, the first blowing sleet or snow, freezing fingers and toes and then the disgrace of losing half my candy to mother's careful sorting for "wrapped candy only and nothing homemade."
I also remember the worry that my costume wasn't "just right." That same worry plagued me on the night Kathy helped me prepare for my date. She said not to worry about a costume; she had just the thing. She came in the door with rose colored satin sheets. My faith in my friend went rapidly downhill. But no, she had a plan. She also had gold jewelry that snaked up my arms (realistic snake designs) and beads to wrap in my hair piled on my head, a few tendrils dropping. The sheet was wrapped toga style with a grand gold belt. The outfit was polished off with a wispy mask on a stick and jeweled slippers. Yes, I looked like the Queen of the NIle. I truly felt beautiful.
My date picked me up in his truck (should have been the first warning). I had a Mexican shawl that I wrapped around my shoulders for the short trip to the "Halloween Fest." As he carefully helped me out of the truck (the toga was skin tight and floor length), I felt an icy blast of wind and was grateful for the lights shining brightly from the porch nearby. We entered a bright room with a fireplace burning furiously and generous glasses of mulled wine being shared with laughter and introductions and light snacks of bree, crackers, grapes, apple slices and little sandwiches with olives on top. I believed I was going to have a great time with this lively group of people in spite of the date I didn't know very well.
Suddenly, all voices stopped as the hostess took the floor. "Here is the scavenger list. You have one hour to gather what you can. The couple returning with the most items will win the prize!" And she held up a basket full of Halloween treats and some for the future as well. I didn't think much about the basket. I was in shock as I started to read the list: thimble, thread, black button, dog toy, child's comb, razor blade, handkerchief...Why, it read like a never ending shopping list for a mall. The worst part was that none of the items were in this lovely warm and cozy house. My beaded slippers and I adorned in satin sheets and wrapped in a wool shawl were heading back out into what had become a howling wind. My date seemed oblivious to my predicament, already having enjoyed several of the mulled wines and in great humor. I was cold sober.
He had to keep me from slipping down the steps. It seemed while we were inside a light rain had frozen on every outside surface, making the walkways regular ice skating rinks. Yet, we were off on our quests. My nose began running immediately; my ears froze and started to ache; my fingertips were certainly suffering frostbite; my feet were no longer registering pain; they were frozen. My energetic date was whisking me along his side, guiding me with his elbow, capturing me with each slip with a loud laugh and a hug. Pretty soon I wasn't sure if I was crying or if my eyes were watering in conjunction with my runny nose. Up the steps of house after house, ringing doorbells and asking for stupid trinkets. I was amazed at the readiness of perfect strangers to search through their house and even apologize if they couldn't find all of our items.
Finally, we had every item on the list and time remained. My date practically carried me back. I thought I'd be heading for the hospital next. When we entered the warm house and I started to thaw, my fingers and toes burned and I sneezed non-stop. My friend's beaded slipper soles were separating and the straps were letting loose. My satin sheets were no longer sleekly wrapped in a tight gown but instead gathered just to hold them on. I curled up on the carpet near the fire and my date in a pile of floor pillows while we waited for the rest of the group to come back. Finally, everyone was gathered in the living room. Our list had been carefully checked against our treasures by our hostess and our arrival time carefully marked. We were first with the most.
After a few stories and a few more mulled wines and some dancing that I couldn't join without coming undressed, my date helped me up into the truck and put the giant basket in my lap. He had generously given me our prize. He never called me again; and I didn't have the heart to tell Kathy about my miserable evening. After all, she had dressed me like a queen and I had returned home in tatters. "How was the party? " She cheerfully asked.
"We won a prize, and I brought it to you!" The fun of sifting through the contents was the best part of that Halloween.
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