Mortifying Jelly-Bellys

August 12, 2009
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Halloween. Most people consider it to be a day full of excitement and laughter complimented by frequent sugar highs. But for me, Halloween has always been a day of latent competition; I always wanted to have the most creative costume that evoked envy from all of my classmates. Third grade of the year 2000 was no different. Leading up to the big day, I had devoted much of my time to developing the most inventive costume. After searching desperately through numerous Halloween magazines and catalogs, I finally decided on my costume: a bag of Jelly-Bellys. To my eight-year-old mind, the costume was perfect. I knew that no one else would have thought of my brilliant idea, and I was anxious to see the surprised yet impressed faces of my classmates.

Finally the big day arrived. I remember pacing by the door of my third grade teacher, Mrs. Lyndsey’s, classroom, awaiting the arrival of my mother with the costume. When I caught a glimpse of my mom’s auburn hair, I began jumping up and down and waving my hands in the air. My mom picked up her pace to meet me and I quickly grabbed her hand and dragged her to my desk in the third row. Trying to suppress my excitement, my mom made me sit down, but my legs anxiously swung back and forth. Then my mom opened the backpack with the costume materials inside. I peered in, making sure that every detail was accounted for. As I did so, my mom reached down and retrieved the bag of blow-up balloons that were destined to become the jelly beans essential to the costume.

I immediately held out my hand and my mom handed over a red, a blue, and a green balloon. Bringing the red one to my mouth, I inhaled deeply and began to blow with all my might. Within minutes I became light-headed, but that didn’t stop me. Eventually enough balloons were inflated to make my costume convincing. Next my mom started to cut holes for my arms and legs in the plastic garbage bag, and I watched, my fingers tapping restlessly on the desk. Eventually she finished snipping the last hole. It was finally time to put the costume on. I hopped off the chair and placed my hands on my mom’s shoulders to keep me steady. She then gingerly slid each of my feet into its respective opening. Refusing further assistance, I pushed my hands through the arm openings. Then I stood proudly in my garbage bag.
While I was basking in my moment, my mom started to stuff the bag with the numerous balloons. Within a short time, I was surrounded by the balloons and could feel the latex rubbing gently against my arms, spreading goose bumps across my skin. Meanwhile my mom tied a loose knot of ribbon at my neck and hung a Jelly Bellys sign on the garbage bag. The costume was complete. Turning around to see the rest of the room, I saw a variety of costumes, including a dinosaur, a witch, Dorothy from the wizard of oz, and Batman. Grinning to myself, I knew that these other costumes could not compare to my own.
In a short time Mrs. Lyndsey’s commanding voice ordered all of her third graders to get in line for the Orenda Elementary Halloween Parade. I waddled over to line up behind my friend Julie, who was dressed up as Snow White.

“Nice costume, Julie,” I whispered. My words caught her attention and she quickly spun around to acknowledge me. This is it, I thought, preparing myself to accept the first of many compliments on my creative costume. However, instead of envy I saw confusion on Julie’s face.

“What are you supposed to be, Alex?” she asked.

“A bag of Jelly Bellys of course!” I exclaimed.

“Oh,” Julie replied with a look of condemnation. I was shocked. Why would anyone not like my costume? I wondered. Before I could get upset, however, the rest of my classmates started to proceed out into the long hallway of the elementary school. After assuming Julie’s reaction would turn out to be an anomaly, I held my head high once again and bagan to march in line. Soon we had exited the building only to be affronted by a huge crowd of onlookers lining the sides of the paved walkway. My face broke out into a huge smile as I came closer to the spectators. I began to search both sides, hoping to spot admiring faces, but they were nowhere to be found; I only saw looks of confusion or mockery. All of the excitement and anticipation leading up to this moment rapidly transformed into hurt and disappointment. Tears sprang to my eyes and I quickly wiped them away as I hung my head, avoiding further stares. I continued to walk in the parade, albeit awkwardly in the constricting sea of balloons. Heat slowly crept up into my face, making my nose and cheeks as pink as a pig’s snout. At this point, I just wanted to go home and never return.

After what seemed like an eternity, I realized that the parade was coming to an end. I took this as an opportunity to dash into the building, where I could finally rip off my stupid costume. Just as I was running through the door, my foot caught on a crack in the pavement. My hands flailing wildly, I tried to stop myself, but it was too late; I crashed onto the hard tiled floor of the school entrance. As I fell, I heard multiple pops like rubber bands snapping delicate skin; some of my balloons had blown up, which only added to my humiliation. At that point, I started bawling. Still sprawled out on the floor, I attempted to rise and escape from the scene. However, my efforts were futile as I simply rolled from side to side. Then I heard my mom.

“Oh honey,” she lamented as she kneeled down to scoop me up in her arms. She carried me over to a bench, where she sat holding and rocking me as I desperately clung to her rough wool sweater. Softly she cooed to me, assuring me everything would be fine. I sobbed for a long time, ridding myself of all the pain. Finally my eyes dried up and I lifted my head to peer up into my mom’s caring, loving face. I managed to deliver a weak smile before my head once again dropped to my mom’s chest where I could hear the comforting sound of her steadily beating heart.
Eventually I gathered up enough courage to walk back to the classroom, retrieve my school bag, and notify my teacher that I was leaving. Mrs. Lyndsey let me know she was sorry for the bad day I had endured and I murmured some thanks before darting out of the room. I met my mom, who was standing patiently at the exit and together we walked out to my family’s red Honda civic parked in front of the school. The rest of that Halloween I sulked in my room and tried to forget the day’s events. Unfortunately, I could never forget and the memories of that day have remained with me for the past nine years.
Although that Halloween was marked with shame and disappointed, I can now look at it as a learning experience rather than a nightmare. Looking back, I realize that the source of my misery was a lack of confidence. I loved that Halloween costume and should have worn it with a sense of pride, even when faced with ridicule. Since my incident, I have learned to admire myself and defend my ideas with aplomb. Never again will I let the harsh criticism of others influence my personal opinions on any aspect of life. Through my sufferings I have grown stronger as an individual and have gained self-confidence that has helped me to succeed and achieve my goals despite obstacles that have come my way. Also, since that day I have learned to have fun on Halloween; I focus on eating candy rather than on crying over a silly costume.





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