★ SUZY BISHOP as the RAVEN ★
Waverly’s Costume Rank: ★★★★★
Dad’s Costume Rank: ⅛ ÷ ¼ x 10 =
We’re back! When we last left our Halloween heroine, she was basking in the glow of the success of her Halloween ham of 2012 and reveling in her newly bartered-for Halloween right—the right to full creative control for 2013. Back in early 2012, I made a Faustian bargain with Waverly: work with us on the ham costume and she gets total control in 2013. At the time, I was thinking ‘what did I just do?’ Not unlike a boxing match, I had Waverly on her heels and against the ropes with my comment about people dumping entire bowls of candy into her bag. She was saying yes and I could have tapped on her shoulder with my pinky finger to knock her over and achieve total acquiescence but I threw in that last comment about creative control. No worries. She embraced her role and was triumphant.
In mid-summer of 2012, Wavely accompanied us to see “Moonrise Kingdom” at the theater, another superb film from Wes Anderson. This was one of the first “adult” movies Waverly saw with us as a family. She fell in love with the movie and actually begged until she saw it three more times on the big screen before the DVD was released. It is very hard to clearly define the effect this movie had on Waverly but I distinctly remember sitting next to her and observing the careful attention she was paying. No fidgeting, no interest in eating popcorn, no yawning—just pure rapture. It was my great joy to share the experience with her. I think this was the “right time, right place” syndrome happening for her. She was almost 12 years old when she saw the movie and in her pre-pubescence phase. Many themes of the film resonated with her. I dare say this movie was absolutely revelatory to her. After her third viewing she settled on the idea of becoming the raven from this movie during one of our numerous off-the-cuff Halloween conversations.
We all liked the idea and there was never a discussion of anything else for the rest of her tenure as art director. This concept allowed her to continue her love-of-animals theme and yet make a departure to a more sophisticated leap to teenager-hood.
Waverly’s concept also graciously provided a “part” for me as well. In the film Suzy Bishop is the daughter in a family comprised of a mother and father played by Frances McDormand and Bill Murray. Waverly decided that I should take on the mantle of the Bill Murray character. Big shoes to fill. She originally wanted me to be her love interest from the film but that was just a little too weird. I was pleased about the continuity from last year’s Gregory Peck meta-father performance. It is always a delight to “play” Waverly’s dad, on film or in person. It is the greatest part I will ever play.
With characters set we settled into our usual summer lull. Towards the end of the summer Waverly was pressed into joining the cast of her middle school musical, The Little Mermaid, at her new school for the sixth grade (thanks to Bakari King and USN for the experience).
Waverly turned in a superb performance in her bit parts (three in all) but it was her mother who also shined in her new role as costume maker for the musical. Natasha created two seahorse heads in an effort to save money for the school and they almost stole the show. Still high from the effects of spray-foam glue, Natasha enthusiastically took on the role of seamstress for Waverly’s raven head. She even constructed flashing eyes for the raven from a cannibalized Halloween costume prop and the cut-off bottoms of Gatorade bottles.
This maybe the first year that I barely had a “hand” in the construction. Certainly I was a bit relieved not to have to build a huge prop but I missed the “making” of the costume. Now I know how my mother feels. Since the Dragon year we have made an active attempt to involve my mother as she always “lights up” when she gets to ply her skills for Waverly’s benefit. This year she asked very early in the process “What can I do?” We tasked her with the papier-mâché raven’s beak and she dutifully employed a Hee Haw cue card into the piece. The Hee Haw cue card has become our good-luck charm that must be included in a costume. I cannot state that the raven’s beak required papier-mâché, but we required my mother’s touch.
A couple of weeks before Halloween we overheard someone mentioning a pre-Halloween outing that involved games and activities. Waverly and I just stood on our stoop, each counting on our fingers the various costumes we had available, trying to figure out which one gave the best chance of mobility. Then we looked at each other in the eye and started laughing at ourselves. It was that sublime moment of shared cognition. Who are we kidding? None of our costumes other than Minnie or Edith, now too small, really worked on the notion of a free range of motion. This year was different, a first really. Waverly was afforded a complete range of motion and vision. Subconsciously, I believe she recognized this fact as she made a checklist of things to do on Halloween, including how to travel light and move quickly. After years of inculcating Waverly into the mechanics of the Halloween process she was now demanding the same from me—all made possible by not being encumbered by a massive costume effort.
Waverly also attended a pre-Halloween block party and I have to say the flashing raven eyes were a lifesaver. An all black costume on a dark night is not a great way to keep track of her, but the eyes always gave her away. At one point I went to find Waverly to tell her it was late and time to leave. I saw two kids in the shadows, one with flashing earrings, and I went up and said hey. It took several moments in the dark to realize I was not talking to Waverly. Oops!
During the Busker Monkey year we had a great time dropping hints to while away the hours of construction. Since that time we have spent less effort releasing clues as the Ham costume was something we really wanted to be a surprise. I could not think of much to tease Moonrise Kingdom but we did release one clue via Facebook in late summer—Bill Murray’s madras pants. This one detail of the movie just fascinated me.
The Big Night
This Halloween was an odd event for me. For one thing it was unusual to be “ahead” of the game on Halloween. Our costumes typically get finished on the afternoon of Halloween but we were done the week before. We had already revealed the costume at a block party the week before so in my mind there was little suspense. Halloween this year was almost called due to inclement weather and days before I was resolved to the possibility of it not happening because of the coming storm.
All of this lead to a strange disconnect in my head. I was not disappointed. Not chomping at the bit. Not worried. Not rushed. I had seemingly fallen into an odd state of Halloween Zen only attained by masters who have put 12 years of blood, sweat and tears into the process. Some of this may have been due to Waverly having taken over creative duties and Natasha handling fabrication duties. I was simply cruising along above it all, dropping in once in a while to keep everyone on course. I was enjoying the Halloween year but I was not physically involved and when my hands are not connected, I loose touch (no pun intended).
The day started off on an odd note. While keeping an eye on the weather radar I headed off to pick up Waverly at school. She had worn her raven costume to school as it seems to be a tradition there. They hold a weekly “town meeting” for each division (lower, middle and high school) and the middle school meeting is essentially a place to show off your costume each year. I was awaiting her excited “download” about her day but that was overshadowed by a bad grade on a big math test. Waverly was in a funk and I had to pull out details about her day. From what I could understand, Waverly was called upon to go on stage and show off her costume. Children are selected by the administration and then winners are selected by crowd applause. From what I can tell, Waverly won a bag of candy for her grade. This would be exciting news, but Waverly was still disappointed in herself about the test. She was worried I was going to cancel her Halloween over the grade. Who is she kidding? We have all year to study multiplication and division of fractions. Halloween is only once a year.
After reviving her with dinner, and discussing the possibility of spending Halloween at the mall, we spied weather radar again and were pleased to see a break in the storm. Halloween would not be denied! We left the house in a slow drizzle, endured sustained 40+ mile-per-hour wind gusts and had a great time. With the weather as a motivating force, Waverly moved like greased lightning. It was all I could do to keep up. Natasha says we were home in record time.
Here are my annual Halloween wrap-up thoughts of the evening:
- Eight pounds of candy! My arm still hurts. This is not a record but I was totally surprised. The Monkey Busker year was our official record. One day I really must create a unit rate chart for pounds of candy earned for each pound of costume. It did not feel like either of us were in it just for the candy, but perhaps that is when you reap the most.
- The wind was so strong that Waverly was often blown off course. I remember heading in one direction to a house and yelling at Waverly, “Hey, were are you going?” not realizing she was fighting a strong gust in her semi-air streamed bird costume. We braved the pelting of leaves and twigs to our faces and avoided the land mines of slippery wet leaves and large branches. It was wild. And yet we were not the only ones out and about. There was talk around town of moving Halloween to Friday, but seriously, forget that.
- Waverly is thinking of writing an etiquette book for Halloween and I hope she does. A sort of “100 and one tips and tricks” affair. After twelve years she has got her audience dialed. She is polite, smiles and says thank you, or “happy Halloween,” She has learned to take one piece of candy or a small handful and then wait while her host implores her to take more. Often the host starts plying Waverly’s bucket with booty while she just smiles. Because of last night’s weather I genuinely believe most hosts were shocked that anyone would be out and about in that muck and they wanted to reward the few, the proud, the brave, the crazy. Of course, the alternative is that the host just wants to get back to their TV screen. Perhaps a little of both.
- We were most often confused with Edgar Allen Poe and his raven. I had this thought a long time ago and probably should have played up that angle, but I still loved Waverly’s choice of reference. Several times people commented that Waverly was a crow. It got to the point where Waverly told one neighbor not to “negatively stereotype” (her words) the costume. She was a raven for goodness' sake!
- No adventurous candy offerings this year. Only one chocolate Tootsie Roll! Again, I am guessing this was weather related—most people were not expecting anyone to be out and likely did not do a “day-of” restocking. I would like to tip my hat to a high school friend who lives in another state. He made a Facebook mention that he buys his candy at a special store and selects the oldies—candy cigarettes, wax bottles of sugar water, wax paper wrapped peanut butter chews, bubblegum cigars and other candies from our youth. I need to have Waverly trick or treat at his house! Mad respect.
- Waverly visited one house by herself and came back depressed. She told me the parents were training the little girl who greeted her to say “take one piece only.” Waverly muttered that they were “ruining a generation.” It’s like traveling with a comedy machine at your side.
- It has been said many times this year, but I must repeat—this was quite possibly the most Halloween-ish Halloween in years. The howling wind, creaking trees, moving shadows, the fear and sense of dread all contributed to a very special spooky Halloween night. It was like Christmas in October for us.
- Our cultural touchstone of this year: Lou Reed passed days before Halloween this year. Thinking of what I would play for Waverly I turned to his song, “Perfect Day” in memory. “Oh, it’s such a perfect day/I’m glad I spend it with you/Oh, such a perfect day/You just keep me hanging on.”
- This near-to-last entry is a mash note of sorts to our neighbors at the end of the block. I will call them the “G’s.” We have known of the G’s for many years in a neighborly fashion. They visited Waverly’s Lemonade stand years ago. They have been a part of our Halloween circuit for many years and even earned a mention last year on the ham page—their daughter or friend was the one who screamed, “To Kill a Mockingbird!” when the door was opened. I think it was two years ago that we ran into the family at an art event before Halloween. This year Waverly and I shared a great visit with the G’s. Wouldn’t you know, the G family was the only one we ran into all night that actually saw Moonrise Kingdom in the theater. Mrs. G even got the madras pants reference. I should have known. Not only that but Waverly now attends the same school as the G’s and their son recognized Waverly. Waverly and I always leave their house on Halloween with an ebullient feeling and are so glad they are our neighbors. The G’s rock!
- O.K. Do not read this last part if you do not want bad news. I am serious.
Still here? I do not want to cast a pall on this Halloween’s festivities but this weighs heavily on my mind. A 9-year-old boy was hit by a falling power line in Nashville last night after finishing his trick-or-treating. He died in the hospital a short time later. Our thoughts are with his family. This is just so tragic. My heart hurts.
At one point I thought to introduce Waverly to Wes Anderson’s oeuvre and started with The Life Aquatic, my favorite. Sadly I started late at night and Waverly was nodding off halfway through the movie. I was sure I had squandered my chance but the next morning I awoke to find Waverly was already watching the second half. “This is a really good movie!” said Waverly with genuine glee. That’s my girl! Do not be surprised if you see us next Halloween in official blue Team Zissou outfits replete with red ski caps including pom-poms.
Waverly thoroughly enjoyed her Halloween experience this year, from selection to fabrication to actual trick or treating. My work here is done. I believe we have launched a successful addition to the world of the Halloween tradition. She may now carry forth on her own, unless she invites me to join her again. Our bird is leaving the nest.