I have done a lot of things for love. To impress my father in high school I tried out for every sport known to man. In my 20’s, I pretended to enjoy a boyfriends off key singing, (think nails on a chalkboard) for a week while driving up the coast of California. I married a man whose job once moved us to five homes in five years, but I think I can trace back my first sacrifice for love– to the Halloween of 1976. In 1968, Planet of the Apes premiered at the box office, followed by the 1970 release of Beneath the Planet of the Apes, which of course was followed by the 1971’s, Escape Planet of the Apes. By 1975 it had become a TV show and by 1976 my fate had been sealed.
My brother Bob and I are four years apart. Four years is a big separation between siblings, for me it was enough time to put Bob on a pedestal. He was so cool and smart. While I was figuring out the mundane details of tying shoes and holding utensils, Bob was reading, following football with my Dad and writing a dictionary of curse words. See what I mean- pretty cool right? Which is why when Halloween rolled around; Bob had the power to decide what we would be for Halloween: Dr Cornelius and Dr. Zira (aka, “Damn dirty Apes”). In the 70’s store bought costumes were new and exciting. It was with bated breath that I first gazed upon our Planet of the Apes costumes; through the cellophane window of the costume box peered a strikingly real, plastic Dr. Zira/ ape mask staring back at me. The mask had pencil size holes for your eyes and mouth and one piece of elastic to hold the mask in place. The elastic was held together by a staple behind each ear of the mask, which later proved to be challenging.
With a week to go before Halloween it was with reverence that I withdrew the paper costume from the box. I couldn’t believe it; the one piece costume (which seemed more like a hospital gown as it tied in the back) was painted to be an exact replica of the real costume. As I slid the mask over my face for the first time and felt my breath heat up the inside of the mask making my cheeks hot and moist I saw my reflection in the mirror and felt like I could walk on the movie set and stand in as Dr. Zira herself, fighting science and prejudice all in her 30 minute weekly time slot. If I thought I looked cool it was nothing compared to the awesomeness that was my brother, picture wind blowing and him standing on top of a mountain with the sun rising in the background. That might be an exaggeration, but that’s how I thought of him, invincible. Once we tried on the costumes he had us carefully take them off and put them back in the box until Halloween. A few days later I whined, begged and pleaded to try them on again only this time in my enthusiasm, when I put on the costume the elastic on the mask snapped, the suit tore, I cried and my brother rolled his eyes.
Halloween that year was great from what I recall. My brother and I were a real twosome. I remember coming home that Halloween and having our Dad inspect our pillow cases full of our candy. He seemed to think the Reese’s cups were poisoned so he confiscated them- for our own good. Strangely however, for the next two days my Dad had the sweetest peanut buttery breath…
By the time Halloween rolled around the following year I had dreams of being Snow White or Cinderella, my brother had different plans. When I told him what I wanted to be, he shook his head, looking reproachfully at me. “Mom and Dad spent a lot of money on those costumes last year we are wearing them again.
“But I want to be Snow White,” I said.
“Mom and Dad shouldn’t have to spend more money on a costume again this year when you have a perfectly good costume in the attic; if you don’t want to be Dr Zira then Mom can dress you up as a clown again.”
“But I don’t want to be a clown!”
“Nobody does… except Mom.”
And so it went, the threat of being a clown and not wasting Mom and Dad’s hard earned money was all it took for me to get on board with the same old, Planet of the Apes costume for a total of three years in a row. My brother would tell you that it wasn’t that long, but hey—who are you going to believe? I remember digging out our costume boxes and being so disappointed to discover the clear cellophane had ripped, the box had yellowed, and the costumes smelled like an old shoe. I believe the last time I wore it Duct Tape was involved and of course several adjustments had to be made to the mask. As time went on the elastic for the mask deteriorated so badly that it had to be made shorter so that it would stay on my face. The mask was pulled so tight that it felt like the tiny eyeholes were going to cut right into my eyelids.
Any who, it was all worth it in the end, my brother got his way and I got to walk proudly beside him as Dr Zira to his Dr. Cornelius raking in lollipops, Smarties, Laffy Taffy, Hershey’s, Bit O Honey, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, which coincidentally turned out to be possibly tainted again. It was years later when Bob sagely told me that the peanut butter cups weren’t really poisoned they were just Dad’s favorite- I felt like such a fool.
We all do terrible and wonderful things for those we love, my first memorable moment of sacrifice is of my brother and forfeiting my dreams of being Snow White- or really anything cute or pretty, to make his Halloween the one he wanted, but it turned out to be exactly the Halloween I wanted too. Anybody can pull off a princess costume and keep their dignity, I however wore my Ape costume proudly with my brother—I mean Dr. Cornelius, right by my side.
Originally published in The PineStraw Magazine 2010