While trying to come up with a costume for Halloween this year, my sister had a recommendation.
“Why don’t you go as Three-Four-Three?” she offered with a smirk.
I had hoped she would have forgotten by now …
To my credit, I was only 10 years old.
I was coming off the worst Halloween costume in my own personal history from the year before, a ladybug costume I manufactured myself by sewing a few large black circles onto the back of a red sweater. I stuffed the back of the sweater with a pillow, donned an antennae-adorned headband and spent the next hour and a half trick-or-treating and explaining that I was actually a ladybug, not a hunchback.
But Halloween 1981 would be my year to be the hit of the ‘hood. Neighbors would long remember it as the year that clever Thies girl came trick-or-treating as a package of M&M’s, a costume she ingeniously fashioned herself.
The concept was terrifically simple: just a black trash bag and masking tape. No template or guide, for I was highly familiar with the artwork on a package of M&M’s.
I carefully spread the black trash bag onto the living room floor and, starting at the closed end and working my way to the open end, created the first “M” with the masking tape. The ampersand between the Ms, with all of its curls and loops, was impossible to make with masking tape, so I dumbed down my design to the more elementary version of a “+” symbol with a line connecting the south and west points.
I taped down the final “M” and cut head and arm holes in the bag just in time to hit the sidewalks of Overland Park.
Unbeknownst to me, however, when I turned the bag 90 degrees and slid it over my head, smoothing it out down past my knees, it no longer read “M+M,” but more closely resembled a crude, cave-like drawing of the numbers “3 4 3” stacked vertically.
Doorbell after doorbell we rang, and every time the homeowner would marvel at our costumes.
“What adorable cowboys,” they would coo over my brothers in their coordinating cowboy hats.
“And Miss America!” they would gush over my sister, twirling in her gown and tiara.
“And … Three-Four-Three?” they would ask me in confusion.
“I’m M&Ms,” I would reply, tilting to the right in my trash bag.
For the next hour and a half I roamed the neighborhood balancing sideways on my right foot every time someone answered the door, hoping I could get my share of Almond Joys without explanation.
I am sure the neighbors long remembered me, though not in the way I had planned.
But I had a bag of candy full enough to last through Valentine’s Day, if not Easter. And that was treat enough for me.