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October 7, 2004
The pants need to be black and white striped. We found some black and white striped upholstery fabric in the store, but it's a special order and it's $14 a yard. And there's pillow ticking, but that's actually a deep blue. Nobody will see it, I say, it'll be night time.

Nope. Madeline is a purist if ever there was one. It needs to look like the picture. I am thinking that I can use an white old sheet -- I bet white sheets all end their lives as Halloween costumes -- and stripe it myself with back fabric paint. That would be all but free. She is skeptical. The pirate blouse is an easier call, and I don't have to make a pirate hat -- we can buy one. She has riding boots, and I have a black eye patch somewhere.

My mother, a gypsy fortune teller in a wide skirt sprinkled with playing cards and a head scarf -- even now, I can hardly believe that it was she. I a dancer, returning home with bloodied toes after too much showing off en pointe. My older daughter, a tiny witch in a hat as tall as she was. Twenty-five years later, her own little girl, a tiny witch, too. Another year, Corinna and a friend in matching boxes painted to look like a pair of dice. My younger daughter, a fairy in a blue dress, and a genie in sheer harem pants and a top that left her tummy bare. Rose and a friend, in identical yellow Belle costumes, flanking a young werewolf.

I think we'll still be at our Cursillo retreat on Halloween night. I know that kids think our house is a little spooky, because it's big and so many shades of purple -- we are doing our bit to make the world just a little less beige -- and so I will hate to miss the parade of little visitors. Perhaps we can put our offerings in the pumpkins that will form a line up the front steps and let them help themselves. But would they summon the courage to approach?

Masked strangers will approach your house, begging for candy, in a genial satire of something darker -- intrusion, extortion, violence, fear. We will decorate and make costumes, domesticating the violence and uncertainty we fear. Some of us will appear covered with blood, missing fingers, eyes, ears, hideously injured. Everyone laughs at everyone else. But some have seen things that make it hard to laugh at the fake blood, the paste-on deformities.

The parade of ghouls and monsters is old -- many centuries have celebrated Halloween in this way. Centuries that saw as much blood up close as we do -- more. Even they wanted the make a feast of it, a play, a send-up of what they feared. Hah! -- I laugh at what I fear. Hah! And Hah! again, and a crowd of others who are also afraid laughs with me, all dressed up, all wandering, all begging sweets, staying close together in the dark. Hah!
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