It was October 2005. A beautiful fall day in New England. We had 2 small children at the time, an 18 month old and a 2 month old, and we decided to head to Basin Harbor Club in Vermont. If you haven’t visited Vermont, you must go! The drive is breathtaking and honestly there is no better place on earth to witness the fall foliage. BHC is nestled in between the mountains and sits on the edge of Lake Champlain. It is GORGEOUS and it just so happens that my childhood best friend, Molly, lives there! SCORE!
Harborween is a festive event held annually at BHC the second week in October. During the day there are a variety of family-friendly activities like face painting, trick-or-treating, costume contests and apple bobbing. Then, long after the children get their fair share of spooky fun, the adults get to enjoy a costume party at the Red Mill.
It is one of those rare opportunities when we schedule a babysitter and actually go out. It is a superb way to spend a Saturday night! With each year that passes, I get clarity on why our friendship has lasted 32 years. We both know how to laugh! Sometimes we laugh at ourselves and sometimes we laugh at each other but we always find a reason to smile. It was this particular visit that I remember laughing the hardest. A classic tale of a perfect night that quickly went sour.
Molly and I left the kids with our husbands and headed to the nearest costume shop. We had at least an hour to find something decent. Plenty of time (cough). No pressure (wink wink). We rummaged through several racks looking for the perfect costumes. We wanted to step out of our role as a mommy and let loose. I didn’t waste any time and immediately started trying on random costumes that I liked. I’m not quite sure why… but it seemed like everything in the store was a size 2. At least it felt that way to me and my post prego body. My gosh was it an ugly scene in that dressing room. When will stores learn that women do not need a 3 way mirror. One is plenty! Lawd!!! I had to laugh so I wouldn’t cry. Molly did her best to uplift my spirits. She whispered things through the door like “Relax. You just had a baby” and “Give yourself a little time. It’s only been 2 months.” I yelled things back like “Dear lord? I look like an effin sausage” and “Ew! I had no idea legs dimpled?”
Of course, all of her nice comments were watered down with laughing and an occasional snort when I would open the door to reveal each fitting. I must love her because she was allowed to laugh at me. I even pushed my belly out to highlight my fatness. Eventually, I resigned to the fact that I would need to make do with the clothes I brought from home. You know? The ones that fit? I had some black yoga pants (shocking) and a black shirt (black is slimming ya know?) All I needed was some mouse ears and a tail and…. Voila, a costume is born. DONE. I can’t be bothered trying to be sexy tonight.
Now we needed to focus on Molly. I held up an Egyptian costume. “Ew? No!” She said. “How bout this?” and I showed her a plastic cat suit. “No way, I will be sweating!” We were running out of time and we needed to grab something fast. “Hey? How bout this?” and she held up a little red dress. “Maybe I can be Little Red Riding Hood?” I liked it. Simple. Cute. Perfect. “Love it! Now all we need is a little red cape and you are done.” We sifted through a couple more racks and then she found something. “Hey? Here’s a cape. And, it’s red. Sweet!” We took my mouse accessories and her makeshift Little Red Riding Hood costume and checked out at the register. I was secretly jealous. How did she find something completely adorable so fast?
We zipped back home and started piecing together our costumes. I quickly put on my costume and modeled for Molly. She almost spit her drink out laughing at me. I checked myself out in the mirror. “Whaaaaat?” I questioned with a certain amount of insecurity. Still laughing Molly convinces me that “it will be fine.” If I wasn’t a mother who needed to be a role model at that moment in time, I would have slapped her freckles right off her face. Instead I looked her in the eye and asked the obvious, “What will be fine?” With a shit eating grin on her face she makes the comment “Well? You still have a little baby weight in your tummy area.” I looked down and that sucker was sticking way the hell out. WTF? It was like I forgot about it or something. My dreams of letting loose with a fun costume dwindled to “I’m getting drunk tonight so I don’t care.” I looked at myself in the mirror and a wave of depression came over me. I spoke in my best monotone voice for the pitiful effect. “I am the world’s most unsexy mouse. I look more like a fat rat!” We got a good belly laugh at my physical despair. It was probably my first moment as a mom when I truly felt…well?.. like a mom. I looked like a big,huge, dorky freaking mom with mouse ears. I put my arm around my bestie. “Thank God I’m already married Molly. He is a lucky guy isn’t he?” Always supportive she responds appropriately. “Yes! [giggles] He sure is!”
Molly walked down the hall to the bathroom and starting trying on all of the goodies we bought for her. I gave her a few minutes to get dressed and then knocked on the door to see how everything fit. [knock, knock] In a sad voice, “Come in”. I opened the bathroom door and she was looking in the full length mirror with the saddest look on her face. “This doesn’t look quite right, does it?” I checked her out from head to toe. I was searching for the right thing to say. I was torn between my honest opinion and compassion. I am not sure what happened but all I could do was laugh. How did we both end up looking so frumpy when we put so much effort into trying to look cute? The more I looked, the harder it was to contain my laughter. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror in my fat mouse costume, which fueled more laughter. I literally fell on the ground and curled up in a belly laugh. It felt good to laugh like that. Finally, I said something. “What is up with the Superman cape? Does Little Red Riding Hood fly or something?” She responded quickly. “I know. It looks odd. How can we fix this? Help me!” My eyes are watering now from laughing so hard. I needed to focus and help my friend but she just looked so disappointed and ridiculous that I really couldn’t contain my laughter. “Is that not the look you were going for?” I asked in between giggles. “No! Not at all!” She was like a pouting teenager. “This dress doesn’t fit right and neither does the cape. There is nothing sexy about it. I look like Frumpy Red Riding Hood.” “Hey? Look on the bright side. At least your costume can be altered. Get me some scissors. I think if I cut the cape to just below your shoulders it will look less superman-ish.” She brought me some scissors and I started cutting. I finished my tailoring and spun her around to look at her new and improved costume in the mirror. We were completely optimistic but my tailoring did not improve her costume in the slightest. She went from superwoman to what looked like a ghetto version of a Sherlock Holmes cape.
“Um? I think I made it worse. What do you think?” “Um, yeah?” She checked out my work in the mirror and tried to be nice. “I don’t know about this? This is just too homemade or something?” I looked her in the eye with every intention to say something positive but all that came out was “It’s bad. It’s really bad.” Followed by more laughter! Molly took it off and threw it on the ground in disgust. “We bombed out shopping today didn’t we?” “Yup..we suck!” Molly dug through some costume bins and found a disco outfit that would work for the night and we moved on. We left all the dreams of being attractive on her bathroom floor and redirected our energy to our children for the day.
We spent the majority of the day involved in Harborween festivities. It was a blast. Despite our morning, we had a great day with the kids. I think we wore them out with activities because nobody argued at bedtime. As soon as the sun set, we got them ready for bed and got ourselves dressed for our big night out. Molly put on her disco outfit and I transformed into a fat mouse. We were ready. Not exactly what we planned but isn’t that life? We were not going to let a little fat and an unplanned costume ruin our fun.
Finally, the moment had arrived. The babysitters took over at home and we made our way to the The Red Mill! We were giddy with excitement. It was so nice to unwind. We partied the way we used to party. Ya know…like before we had kids? I’d be a real liar if I didn’t admit that the Oktoberfest beers were going down mighty nice. Alcohol has a way of providing confidence when it’s needed, doesn’t it? We used that alcohol induced confidence to our advantage! We made lots of new friends and at one point we may have actually taken over the dance floor. I can go from a white suburban soccer mom to a hip shaking dancing queen in a matter of 4 drinks. It’s the kind of dancing that makes strangers feel embarrassed for me. Always a proud moment for my husband. The Red Mill never saw a mouse rock the house quite like I did that night. All in all, we were feeling pretty good about the night. Until…. it…. happened.
It was that one defining moment that reminded us of where we were in our lives. When we realized that we were no longer the young chicks we once were. One of the biggest slaps of reality we had ever encountered as women. I wasn’t sure what was going on at first. There seemed to be some sort of crowd gathering at the door. I saw all the men tapping their buddies on the shoulder and pointing with raised eyebrows and excitement . I stood up on the foot rest of the bar stool and stretched to see what was going on. Then she walked in. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was by all pornographic standards a slam dunk! Little Red Riding Ho was in the house!
My jaw dropped to the floor. Her costume looked exactly the way Molly’s was supposed to look. What if Molly had worn the frumpy costume? Thank God she didn’t. That would have been quite a disaster. We would have been mortified. Where is Molly anyway? I need to warn her! I scanned the whole bar and I found her in the far corner talking with some friends. I watched from afar. She stopped talking and looked at the crowd gathering at the front door. It was all in slow motion. She couldn’t see what the commotion was all about so she walked to get a closer look. Then she stopped in her tracks and backed up ever so slowly. It was her first glimpse of the sexy porn star. It was as if I could see the hamster running in her head. When I tell you the look on Molly’s face was priceless; I am not lying. She went through so many emotions within a 15 second time frame. Anger,shock, disappointment, jealousy, depression and finally relieved. It was hysterical! She looked for me in a panic. I was the only one who knew exactly what happened. She found me. I talked to her with my eyes. “Oh yes. I am right here watching my friend. I saw the whole thing unfold.” We both were laughing. I raised my pint to toast her. What are the chances that a super hot version of her idea would walk through the doors tonight?
We both shook our heads in disbelief. What has happened to us? We are moms. Total moms. Damn you…you hot little bitch…you Little Red Riding Ho. What were we thinking anyway? We thought a silly costume would help us let loose but what we learned was something very different. There is no better way to relax than a good belly laugh with a friend that has been around for decades. Every autumn I am in awe when I look at the beautiful canvas as we make the annual drive through Vermont. It is a subtle reminder of that day in 2005. Our human shells change and evolve over time but the honesty, love, laughter, compassion and loyalty of a good friend is something worth hanging onto forever.