The costume came in a cardboard box with a cut-out cellophane cover so I could look in and see the hard plastic mask. The dubious craftsmanship did not deter me from desiring this costume above all others – especially the pretty pink princess costume my mom was pushing on me like a vendor at a ball game.
“Princess here! Get your princess here!”
No. I flatly refused to have anything to do with the princess costume. She tried to bribe me by going up the costume food chain to the ones hanging from the nearby rack. Upgrading from the ill-fitting plastic imprinted poncho found in the box to actually cloth. I would not be moved. Clinging to the box with all of my pre-school strength- I argued my point with something that may have been a temper tantrum. Bless her heart, my mom caved and the plastic was mine.
When my mother tells the story, she focuses on the fact that all the other girls in the nursery school were princesses or nurses or ballerinas. I was in my plastic poncho with one hand holding the plastic Witchy-Poo mask to may face since the thin rubber band had long since snapped off. She still doesn’t understand why I wanted to be an ugly character in an even more ugly costume.
My version of the story is simple. Witchy-Poo scared me to death. I couldn’t watch the show without running out of the room whenever her character came on screen. So, when I saw that, for just a moment, I could be Witchy-Poo, I could have the power. I grabbed it. Finally, I did not have to be afraid. It was worth more to me than all the glitter and fake tiaras in the world.
Now, when Halloween approaches, I sometimes find myself trying to influence my own child in his costume choice. I hear the echoes of my mom in my voice:
“Vampire here.... get your Vampire...”
And then I remember the feeling of empowerment when I didn’t even know the word. I remember the feeling of courage when I could only speak of fear. I remember the lesson that being a witch in a room full of fake princesses taught me. It was ok to be myself – even when I was behind a hot plastic mask. Last year, I let my son choose his own costume with the hope that someday he’ll be able to write an article about what being an evil penguin meant to him.
That's what I cherish about serving as the pastor of the Congregational church in Millis. Despite all the preconceived notions, in spite of what the world thinks we would be, should be, we are, in fact, a place of empowerment and I, for one, am free to be exactly who I am. So as we ramp up to another fall season, this non-princess Witchy-Poo hopes you'll experience that freedom someday, too.