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The Migration 

Anticipating the little butterfly's return

I wonder which is more telling of my genius: the fact that I knew exactly where to get the two plastic asses, or the fact that I needed two plastic asses to begin with. "Girl," Daniel sighed, rubbing his eyes, "tell me again just what in the hell is it you're going to be for Halloween this year?"

"A double-butted baboon," I answered excitedly. "I already have the plastic asses."

"Of course you do," he said.

My genius is obviously wasted on Daniel, an artist whose gift is outside the double-butted variety. If you subtract the time he dressed up as a country-singing drag queen when he and Grant threw me my "Recovering Slut Baby Shower" six years ago, I haven't seen him dress up in a costume since that Halloween a decade back when he was a priest with porn hanging out of his pockets. How he can let another perfectly good opportunity like the entire month of October go by without even at least gluing a fake bloody hatchet to his head is a mystery to me. But I don't judge.

"At least wear one of my headbands with the blinking bloody-eyeball antennae," I griped.

"Hell, no," he griped back. "Don't draw me into your Halloween drama. I could injure myself. You practically get hospitalized every year yourself."

Please. The Halloween when I got the concussion was not even because of my own costume. I got hit in the head from the corner of a tabletop that was part of my friend's walking "Decapitated Head Served on a Platter" masterpiece. Of course, it might have helped if I could have seen through the black-lace veil of my evil-sorceress outfit, but details like that are secondary to the overall visual effect. Sure, I was blinded to the point of walking into oncoming traffic, but the important part is that my costume kicked ass.

This year it was my daughter's idea for me to be the double-butted baboon. I won't tell you how she came up with the concept, except to say that 6-year-olds, as a matter of convention, are obsessed with anything ass-related. It's pretty much a time-tested fact.

I remember when my big sister was about that age. Every night before bed, she used to pin me down on the bottom bunk and fart on my head. In fact, she'd probably still do it if she didn't live half a hemisphere away.

It's a shame they didn't have plastic asses back when we were kids, because we certainly could have used the variety come Halloween. Part of the reason I love to make costumes today is because I had scarce materials to work with when I was little. My sister and I both were expected, year after year, to wear the same butterfly costume we were outfitted with when we were in preschool and part of a parade float that spring. We lived in Pacific Grove, Calif., which is famous for being an annual migration point for hoards of Monarch butterflies. I remember it was a big deal every year to sit out on the porch waiting for the butterflies to return. We'd strain our eyes and pretty soon there they'd be, clouds upon clouds of them fluttering home. It really was pretty magnificent.

But still, for the first seven years of my life, my Halloween costume was not even inspired by Halloween, but by some bogus local butterfly worship. I swear, if I hadn't been so busy trying to squirrel away all the Laffy Taffy for myself, I would have crawled into the pillow sack of candy we collected every year to simply curl up and gurgle with shame right there on the spot.

Then one October my mother cut the bottoms out of the little butterfly footies at the end of our little butterfly tights so our lanky legs could prod through and, hopefully, stretch out another year of wear from our ratty-ass parade-float throwbacks, no doubt, when all of a sudden it seemed to occur to her it wouldn't be possible any longer.

My sister and I could hardly believe our fortune. My mother stood by, bemusedly hovering with her hundredth Salem menthol, as my sister and I hooted all the way to the five-and-dime. We hooted all through the process of picking out the completely flammable, choke-hazard heavy death suits that would serve as our costumes that year, then hooted out the door on our way to gather our annual pillow sack of cancer-inducing dye-laden sugar bombs. We were so happy we could hardly breathe.

As I bounded away, though, I remember stealing one single glance back at my mother. There she was, framed by our doorway, her head surrounded by a halo of smoke, her hand unsteady as she held the menthol to her lips. I know now what she was thinking. She was wondering when it was, exactly, that her little baby butterflies had gone and migrated away. She was thinking maybe she should sit out on the porch and wait for them to return.

Yes, she'll strain her eyes and pretty soon there they'll be, fluttering home.

Hollis Gillespie is the author of Confessions of a Recovering Slut and Other Love Stories and Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood. Her commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered."

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