My father, like most men from his generation, is always serious and professional to a fault. For him, emotion and fun are private things. My finest proof of this is the time that we went on vacation and he wore a dress shirt, dockers and penny loafers…to the beach.
When I was a girl, the methodist church that we attended would hold an annual costume party. One particularly cold Ohio October, Dad shocked us all by boldly announcing that he was dressing up. This was unheard of. He gathered my little sister, little brother, and me in the living room to unveil his costume. He prefaced the impromptu family meeting by saying that he wanted us to see it ahead of time so that we wouldn’t be scared.
Suspense hung in the air like a London fog as he carefully pulled the zipper open on the suit bag. He was taking his time. He loved the drama even though he would never admit it. As the zipper slowly cleared its path, we saw it. Bright blue fur popped free.
“What is that?” my brother asked. We were all thinking it, but he was the only one brave enough to ask.
As it turned out, Dad used his connections as a professional advisor for agriculture and conservation to borrow the “Litter Critter” mascot costume. For those of you who don’t know or don’t remember, the Litter Critter was the predecessor to modern recycling efforts, an electric blue gorilla that urged kids in the 80s to stop littering.
My brother and I thought it was hilarious. My sister cried. She was only about three years old and the Litter Critter wasn’t the friendliest looking beast. The mascot often scared little kids.
After he removed the mask, she settled down. We all pulled on our costumes and piled in the car. It was a short drive to the church which was surrounded by a dense woods. When we got within a hundred yards of our destination, Dad pulled the car off the road and turned out the headlights. He hopped out and told my mother to move over to the driver’s seat and go ahead without him.
“Tell them I couldn’t make it,” he said and jogged between the trees until he was swallowed up by the night.
Mom shrugged and put the car into gear. She was already in the loop. However, the three of us in the back seat were completely bewildered. We begged her to stay and wait for him to come back. It was too far for him to walk home.
However, she knew better and proceeded on. We arrived and quickly found our friends. About twenty minutes later, a strange electric blue creature jumped into the party. It moved like an animal, certainly not like my father. He never broke character. I had visions that the real Litter Critter found my father in the woods and took his place. Surely this maniac wasn’t the prim and proper man that I knew.
In the end, everyone was laughing and trying to figure out the identity of the mysterious creature in attendance. It wasn’t until service the next morning that he revealed himself to everyone’s astonishment.
If you liked my childhood Halloween memory, you’ll love these from my fellow “carnies”…