• Tyler Ham

The last Halloween

The year was 1989. The summer’s biggest film, BATMAN, had left an impression on me like few other films before it.  I lived Batman. I wanted to be Batman. I had the Topps trading cards, the action figures  (I still have my Batmobile – One of the few childhood toys that survived my father’s purge) the books on cassette as well as the choose your own adventure series, and basically a love of anything that held that black bat silhouette.

I even spent the summer declaring that Kim Basinger was my favorite actress – you know, even BEFORE Batman. #poser.

Needless to say – That Halloween, I was going Batman. Not AS Batman (Parents totally cheaped out and wouldn’t get be a film accurate Bat suit) but as his equally cool and much more affordable nemesis – The Joker.

A little backstory is in order. My dad was a builder, and we moved a lot. Not really far, seeing as how we always stayed in the same county, but the distance between houses was great enough that I switched schools often. So when I say “We had just moved to town,” What I really mean was “we just moved back after several years.” Why is that important? When I was a baby, my mom was friends with a woman whose son was my age. We were great friends when we were 3, but by this point, 9 years had gone by. He was now “Cool,” and I was now “a kind of chubby dork.”

So I was shocked when he invited me to go out on Halloween with him and his friends (who were also cool.)  Up until then, I had trick or treated nearly every year at my grandma’s house. She lived in a flat neighborhood full of houses that were essentially in a large circle.  So, if you started early, you could do the entire loop, change your costume slightly, then do it over again. But this year was different. I was going trick or treating with the cool group, and NO parents. I was getting diabetes just thinking about it.

Earlier in the day I went to Hallmark (Halloween headquarters in the 80’s) and bought one of those primary color grease makeup kits, and some green hair “stuff” that was the constancy of paint mixed with pomade. The tools were basic, but the enthusiasm was high. I. will. be. Joker.

It was an hour before I had to leave to meet up with my “new cool friends.” I covered my face in white, drew a red smile which, at the time, I thought looked great, but in retrospect made me look like a transvestite cosplaying as Ronald McDonald, and brushed this disgusting green shit through my hair until I felt like it looked just right. Again, my penny pinching parents refused to buy me a purple fitted suit, so I had to substitute with a green T-shirt that had the logo of my dad’s development company on it (I still don’t know what “Palladio” means)

I was ready. I had my treat sack, and was filled with the nervous anxiety a 12 year old gets only on Halloween. My parents dropped me off at my friends house, and I rang the doorbell. The door opened, and inside were the top tier of the schools social elite. Only one thing was confusing to me – Nobody else was wearing a costume. All of the kids were dressed in head to toe black, and instead of treat bags, they had pillow cases. And in those pillow cases, cans of shaving cream.

Everyone just stared at me. I froze. I really didn’t know what to do in this situation.  My mother’s instance on replacing my sneaker shoelaces with bright neon pink ones the day before school started (“They look so cool” in her best Beverly Goldberg voice) had already severely handicapped my social status. This could kill me. I foresaw a year of having lunch in the janitors closet.

Finally someone spoke. “Oh look, he is the Joker.” They got closer. “That’s perfect, nobody will recognize you!”  Wait a minute. What was happening? Could they think that this was some type of clever disguise? That I was savvy enough to be ironic in my  costume choice? “But where is your shaving cream?”

SHIT.

“Oh – My mom and dad saw it in my bag and took it before I got dropped off.” Seemed reasonable. “Here, take some of mine.” and I was handed a fresh can of Barbasol, tip gently melted down to make the cream shoot out on a super soaker worthy stream.

That night we owned the town. We shaving creamed the school, had a gigantic shaving cream and toilet paper battle on the school field, threw a few eggs, and in the end when were had depleted enough cans of shaving cream to noticeably increase global warming, we even did what all kids are programmed to do –  trick or treat.

The next day, I was a chubby dork again, my friend was cool again, and we didn’t really see much of each other. But for that one night, we were all equals, and it was amazing.

After that 7th grade Halloween, I didn’t dress up anymore – At least until college when Halloween was more about getting wrecked at house parties. The years in between went more from the enjoyment of getting candy, to giving candy, and Halloween now is something I get to enjoy through the eyes of my daughter.

Still, when I wake up November 1st and see a smashed pumpkin and find empty shaving cream containers in the bushes, I think back to that one legendary Halloween in 1989 and smile.

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