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Costumes bring out the child in me

Audrey McConachie-Byers is a member of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.


When I was a child my favorite holiday was Halloween. Like little girls the world over, I loved dressing up. Dressing up meant entering the realm of make-believe, becoming someone else or perhaps something else...a ghost, a cat, a walking television set.

In my day, it was customary to wear costumes to school on Halloween, and that was it, though neighborhood parties were sometimes arranged. The habit of door-to-door begging for candy had not been established. However, some of the older kids did get into mischief after dark by soaping windows, throwing eggs, ringing doorbells. My cousins who lived on a farm told stories of other daring pranks — like turning over outhouses. Such activities held no glamour for me.

My interest centered in the Land of Make Believe. In high school I signed up for dramatics, unfortunately only open to seniors. Later in life, I participated in church productions. As a mother I enjoyed the excitement of Halloween through the lives of my children. By then door-to-door begging was a regular yearly event that remains popular today.

How delighted I was to discover that staff at the retirement community where I now live puts on a yearly Halloween party, encouraging residents to dress up. We can choose from a fascinating variety of colorful costumes or we can make up our own disguises. I’m back in the Land of Make Believe and happier than the proverbial clam!

This year, my “fairly new” husband and I will dress as the King and Queen of Hearts. In other years I’ve been a clown, a cat and a Norwegian girl with long yellow braids. Two years ago I had the most fun of all dressed as a Barbie doll. I conceived of the notion of playing Barbie one day when discovering that a peel-off face mask I was using gave my face a shiny unreal appearance when it dried. “Like a doll face,” I thought.

Dressing like Barbie was easy. For my costume I chose a short skirt and girlish blouse. I put on a pair of Mary Jane-style shoes. Next I applied several layers of the gooey face mask. As soon as the mask was completely dry I added makeup, giving myself raised eyebrows, eyelashes heavy with mascara, rosy cheeks and bright red lips. Last of all I donned a red wig.

On my way to the Halloween party in the auditorium I practiced walking stiffly. At the door a staff member greeted me with “Who do we have here?” to which I replied in a high sing-song voice, “Hello, my name is Barbie.” Moving arms and legs in jerky motions, I progressed across the room, nodding at the assembled residents and repeating “Hello, my name is Barbie.” With some show of difficulty (dolls do not have knee joints, you know.), I seated myself in the front row.

It so happened that a certain magician was being featured that year — one we had seen twice before — so his act was a bit stale. The poor man made the mistake of choosing me to assist with his card tricks. Now everyone knows that a Barbie doll can be programmed to move and repeat certain phrases, but not to think for herself. I tried to be helpful to our magician but, of course, I had to be true to my character.

My stiff doll fingers were able to choose cards but could not hold or show them to the audience in the expected way. Sometimes I dropped the card. Stooping over to pick it up was a feat in itself. Sometimes I held it facing the wrong way.

When asked to tell which card I had chosen I could only respond in my squeaky voice, “Hello, my name is Barbie,” or “How are you?” or “I love you,” responses that had the audience laughing but completely flummoxed the poor magician.

Actually, I believe I helped his act.

If that same magician is part of the entertainment this year I don’t believe he will call on the Queen of Hearts for assistance.




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  • 16 Apr 2014

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  • 17 Apr 2014

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