Halloween is still two weeks away and already I have carved and displayed one pumpkin long enough for the gourd to rot.
I plan to put a face on a second pumpkin shortly.
But what face? A happy face? A sad face? A fierce, jagged-toothed scary face?
Like a sculptor finding the form in a stone, I'll allow the pumpkin to guide my knife.
The face on the pumpkin is a mask.
It is this disguising of the everyday that makes me love Halloween so much.
It's an escape and an excuse to play dress-up.
Dress-up has always fascinated me with its ability to transform.
With a cap and a badge a kid becomes a cop.
A pointed hat and black dress turns a little girl into a witch.
Costumes allow the wearer to try out different attitudes and personalities.
As a child I could play dress up for hours on end.
One of my favorite friends had boxes of old clothes and we'd entertain ourselves for hours on end swishing around her basement in her mother's old dresses and her father's old coats.
Hats and dresses were the best.
They made us feel glamorous and grown-up.
When I was growing up I looked forward to Halloween almost as much as Christmas.
I spent weeks planning my costume.
For many years my mom would stay up late into the night sewing, stapling and constructing costumes for my brother, sister and me.
One year I was Miss America complete with sash and crown.
As I got older my goal was to come up with a costume that nobody else had thought of.
I thought I was nothing short of brilliant the year purple balloons inspired my bunch-of-grapes costume.
My pride was short-lived, however, as neighbors congratulated me on my Fruit of the Loom outfit.
Unknowingly, I had copied a character from an underwear ad.
To make matters worse it was a MEN's underwear ad.
Humiliated and embarrassed, my face turned beet red in bright contrast with my purple grapes.
A few years later I thought I had tapped genius once again when I decided to outfit myself as a Rubik's Cube.
The multi-colored puzzle cube, you may remember, was a pop sensation in the early-1980s.
So, with some paint and a box salvaged from behind the Alpha Beta supermarket, I turned myself into a Rubik's Cube and headed to the mall for a costume contest.
Despite my efforts, I lost out to a kid in a plush store-bought lion costume.
These two disappointing Halloweens, however, did little to dim my enthusiasm for costumes.
In high school I discovered the power of costumes and props when, at a party one night, I took off my glasses.
I was with people I had socialized with many times before and truly, up until that moment, I had been invisible to many of them.
Suddenly, when the glasses came off, I found myself getting all kinds of attention.
It was almost surreal and I questioned my perception the next day.
So, like a science project, I began to test and retest.
My results were always frighteningly predictable and I realized how easily manipulated by appearance we humans are.
Both fun and scary, my science project helped me to understand some of the fascination with dressing up.
Since Halloween is the one time of year many people consciously choose their mask, it's a chance to manipulate perception.
You can pretend to be a monster or believe yourself to be Miss America.
You can put on a tutu and leap through the streets on Halloween and no one will look twice.
What freedom! A badge and a cap and you can order your friends around.
But also scary.
And while putting on one character, you free yourself to set aside normally constraining personality traits.
Those of us who are chronically and debilitatingly shy can, with a the proper costume and props, expand into our space.
We can yell and jump and be noticed and not care (as long as the mask is on).
Like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight, on Nov.
1 we must revert back into our real selves.
Real selves with a secret: we can transform.
One year two friends and I dressed up as Charlie's Angels.
Another time I made myself into a spider web.
More recently I was costumed as the fairy queen from "A Midsummer Night's Dream." This year my plan is to be the destroyed lounge singer Lola from "Copacabana."
Meanwhile, I'm watching my two-year-old develop a love for dress-up.
She plans to dress up as a butterfly.
I can't wait.