When I was five and in first grade, my brother and I spent a few weeks of the fall in Utah. I stayed at my grandparents' home, but my Aunt Cristelle, who was a college freshman, was mostly in charge of taking care of us. My mom had been diagnosed with leukemia, and my father was flying all over the country with her, looking for the best treatment options.
We were in Utah for Halloween. In the area where we stayed, children didn't typically do the traditional trick-or-treat. Instead, members of wards (local LDS congregations) organized "Trunk-or-Treat" outings, where ward members would park their cars in the parking lot of a church building in a somewhat circular fashion, and little kids would go from one car to the next yelling "Trick-or-Treat!" and collecting loot. My brother and I were cynical even at the age of five. We knew that what we were doing was not really trick-or-treating, so we pointedly hollered "Trunk-or-Treat!" at each car. Some people thought it was cute. Others found it particularly obnoxious.
Our costumes weren't much of an issue at the Trunk-or-Treat gathering because it was quite dark. Afterwards, however, neighbors of my grandparents were having a Halloween party for their children and were kind enough to invite my brother and me. My brother was Darth Vader in a standard store-bought costume. My Aunt Cristelle wanted something a bit more creative for me. The little girls were asked to dress up as their favorite Barbie dolls. Someone was Ballerina Barbie. There were multiple Cheerleader Barbies and Cinderella Barbies. Someone else was Teacher Barbie. There was Gymnast Barbie, Veterinarian Barbie, Race Car Driver Barbie, Babysitter Barbie, and too many more to remember. I don't think anyone forgot my Barbie incarnation, though. I was the one and only Trailer Trash Barbie.
Cristelle needed a pair of jeans that she could cut off really short into Daisy Duke-length shorts for me. This wasn't easy, as I was considerably underweight and hadn't quite grown into size 3t clothing. My aunt finally found a pair of size 6-9 month jeans (remember, babies wear diapers under them) suitably tight on me to resemble Daisy Duke shorts, and she cut them very short. She took a T-shirt that my 2-year-old cousin had outgrown. She printed across the chest of it in vold letters, "Don't Stare! Grow some of your own!" Then she put a swim suit top on me and stuffed it liberally with facial tissues before putting the shirt on me. She found a package of candy cigarettes at a novelty store, which she rolled up in the sleeve of my t-shirt. She applied several fake tattoos to my skin, all pledging my true love forever to different boys. She did my hair and makeup a la Jonbenet, except with a pink tint to it. She found some tacky 3-inch heels in which I could barely walk. (My shoe size was six -- not size four like in small women's shoes, but baby size six.)
Predictably, almost everyone in attendance at the party was horrified. My grandparents had gone out to dinner, so they never even saw me in all my glory. People in the neighborhood and the ward probably murmured about it for weeks 9Mormons are big on murmuring), but no one had the nerve to actually ention anything to my grandparents, who were pillars of the church beyond the local level. My Uncle Michael, who lived at home while attending BYU just prior to getting married, snapped a few pictures of me in costume. Then all was forgotten.
A great deal happened in the following months. My mom got much sicker. I became ill. I was made well enough to donate bone marrow to her, but then got sick again, and I spent many months recovering under the care of my parents' closest friends, who lived in Florida and were an MD and nurse practitioner. Eventually both my mom and I were well again.
Maybe five years later, when we were attending a family reuinion in Utah with the relatives, someone put a DVD of old photographs into a computer projected onto a wall screen, which the adults were watching. Then out pops the picture of me as Trailer Trash Barbie. My parents at first didn't recognize me until my brother graciously pointed out that I was the little slut [his precise words]. My mom was speechless. My grandparents were practically apopleptic. My dad's face was ashen. Everyone wanted to know the how's, why's, and most importantly, the who's of the situation. As evil as I've always been considered by that half of the family, even they knew I had been incapable at the age of five of pulling off the Trailer Trash Barbie look unassisted. It was easy enough to blame Aunt Cristelle since it really was her doing, especially since she was over two thousand miles away.
Cristelle and her husband don't have any children, but my father swears that he will get even with her if she ever does. Even if she doesn't, my dad says, he will someday take a few extremely compromising pictures of her cocker spaniel.