I hate Halloween.
I know, I know, I’m a total Scrooge, or whatever the October equivalent is. It’s just so much work: getting five costumes together and then getting everyone dressed and pinned in while listening to the screaming about how “It’s itchy, ITCHY ITCHY ITCHY!” and “She took my wand!” and “My wings are crooked!” and then at the end of the night there’s mountains of candy (most of which will still be stashed in the pantry at Christmas, taunting me) including half chewed Tootsie rolls stuck to the couch. Finally, we fall into bed exhausted, and when we wake up, suddenly, it’s 15 minutes until Christmas. I’m a little jealous of those families who refuse to participate in Halloween at all. They might be on to something – it may really be the devil’s holiday.
This year promises to be a little better. First of all, my twelve year old took it upon herself to make all the little girls’ costumes. She worked for hours on Butterfly Girl, Bumblebee Girl, and Ladybug Girl. And because she made them, she gets to listen to the itchy screaming. It’s payback, baby.
Grey is going as a Jawa, some Star Wars creature I barely recognize, even though I’ve been subjected to each movie at least ten times. Even so, it only took me 20 minutes to make his robe, and I earned Mommy points for participating.
That leaves only Zoë. She’s dressing as the Ninth Doctor from Doctor Who. Practical girl, she choose the costume because we already had all the elements. She came downstairs to model it for us the other night. There was a collective gasp.
She was wearing my combat boots.
I may need to back up a little here.
When I was eighteen, my best friend bought a pair of combat boots from the Army Navy Surplus. Because I thought that everything Jenny did was the epitome of cool, I went out and bought myself a pair too. It became our signature thing. Eventually, Jenny’s boots wore out and she stopped wearing them. Mine, however, became infused with nearly magical properties. I’d slip those puppies on and I was transformed from an angsty and anxious teenager into a 100% badass.
I wore them with a short white sundress as I marched to class in Austin, TX. I laced them up every morning against the bumper of my Ford Tempo while I was homeless in Chapel Hill, NC. They protected my feet as I hung drywall for extra cash, and they grounded me when I played my very first gig at a coffeeshop in Fuqua-Varina. They were tucked under me one September evening as I sat crosslegged until dawn, reading high school journals out loud to the man I’d marry a few months later. I seriously considered spray painting them white and wearing them under my wedding dress.
As I got older and acquired responsibilities that called for more um… traditional footwear, the boots became the thing of legend, complete with their own persona. Stompy Booted Girl became my alter-ego, called into action anytime something ballsy was required. It was Stompy Booted Girl who went head to head with my children’s principal. It was Stompy Booted Girl that Mike called on to do battle with the real estate agent who tried to back out of our contract. Stompy Booted Girl wrote my mother’s eulogy and even started this blog.
Stompy Booted Girl is the antithesis of culturally acceptable femininity. She says, “Leave the dishes in the sink, we’ve got more important things to do.” Incapable of tiptoeing, she walks boldly into rooms, refusing to hide in the shadows. She slogs through bullshit unfazed and weighs twenty pounds more than she has to. She’s not always a fighter, she’s not always loud, but she is always undeniably present. She claims her space and stands there smiling with steel toes, ready to defend it. She shouts, “Solid is sexy.”
I look at my twelve year old daughter wearing those boots and think, “Yes. That’s what I want for you, child. Stand your ground, claim your strength, resist being made small.” But for her, they are just a pair of shoes.
She’s begged me several times to let her wear them. Each time, Mike looks horrified and says, “No way. I am NOT comfortable with that.” I just say, “You’ll have to get your own.”
What we both mean is that it will take a lot of living, a lot of tripping, a lot of standing back up, to grow into those boots. And mine will never really fit her. Mine are scuffed with my own personal defeats and victories. Their power comes from their history. She’ll have to break in her own pair. We know it’s coming, that battle she’ll fight to become herself, and it’s that knowledge that sucker punches her daddy every time she asks to lace up. It just makes me a little misty. I wish I could tie those shoes to her ankles and pass on everything I’ve learned in the last 20 years so she doesn’t have to walk into combat herself. But I know it doesn’t work that way. She’ll have to build her own Stompy Booted Girl out of whole cloth.
So, she’s wearing the boots today only. It’s Halloween after all. We’ll applaud her costume and try to remember that she’s the Ninth Doctor. Meanwhile, she’s saving up for her own pair. I can only hope that when she gets them, they help her to become anyone she likes.