Boo! While I hold special memories of Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and other holidays, the holiday I’ve perhaps loved the most over the years is Halloween. The first Halloween I can recall …
While I hold special memories of Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and other holidays, the holiday I’ve perhaps loved the most over the years is Halloween.
The first Halloween I can recall is the one spent in Torrance, Calif. when I was five. My parents got me the the exact costume I wanted, a gorilla suit with a mildly-terrifying plastic mask, the kind secured with a skinny piece of elastic around the back of my head. I practiced my best gorilla growls around the house before my sisters and I headed out to scour the block for goodies in the late afternoon while the sun was still up. No crisp fall chill in sunny southern California to worry about. We dashed from house to house, ringing doorbells and knocking on doors and eagerly holding out our bags for sweets. From other kids in the neighborhood, we’d learned that the home of an elderly couple was a must stop on our route, as they didn’t fiddle with little paper-wrapped taffy or candy corn – they handed out full big candy bars. I remember coming back home and dumping my treasures on the floor and sorting through them, putting each kind of candy in its own little pile. It was a glorious haul, to be sure.
Although we lived in town when we moved back to Marion, Kan., our house on the banks of Mud Creek came with a barn, or the carriage house, as it was often referred to. The main floor had been home to an actual carriage when the house was built, with the lower level the stable for the horses that pulled it. The attic was our everyday playroom, although some play days were shorter than others on account of the wasps that resided there in summertime.
The barn was the perfect place to turn into a creepy Halloween haunted house one year, and my sisters and I did our best to creep our friends out with fake cobwebs and skeletons and such. We had a covered box to reach into to feel for “body parts” – dried apricots for ears, grapes for eyes, cooked spaghetti for entrails. It was all quite wonderfully gory, and the neighborhood kids were still talking about it at school the next week.
One Halloween in junior high I discovered the hazards of high heels. Hoping to elude the cops after committing Halloween pranks, my buddies and I decided that dressing up as women might just throw them off our trail. I don’t remember the dress, but I surely remember the heels because of how hard they were to run away in. Heels were not the ideal getaway footwear after filling someone’s jack-o-lantern with shaving cream. Still, perhaps it was some good practice for my disco days in college and the platform heels that were mandatory for the proper Saturday Night Fever dance steps. And at 5’7” tall, I didn’t mind having the couple of extra inches those heels gave me.
My enthusiasm for Halloween dwindled a bit after I graduated college and set out on single life in Oklahoma. There were plenty of props for a costume at the health department where I worked at the time, but my costuming was limited to work hours, and my duplex on the outskirts of town was off the beaten path in a neighborhood with few if any kids. For quite a few years, Halloween was a rather low-key night.
But Daddyhood changed that as my daughter grew up. Halloween was a blast again, helping both her and our neighbors enjoy the excitement of the night. We were living in St. Peters, Mo. then, in a house with a sweet gum tree in the front yard that were great for decorating with black and orange streamers, pumpkins, gravestones, and more. I wanted it to be one of the creepiest houses on the block, and most years we succeeded.
In those days I didn’t pre-plan a costume – I’d get home from work and dash around the house collecting odds and ends to make some bizarre creation on the spot. Usually my wife would have to go shopping for new makeup for herself the next day. One Halloween I climbed up in the sweet gum tree to ambush trick-or-treaters as they arrived. While they were standing at the doorway I’d shake the branches a bit, and when they looked to see what was happening I’d jump down with a snarl and a scream. The fright sent a couple junior high boys running away screaming, and then I heard them yelling to their friends down the street to come to my house because it was so great. No better praise on Halloween than the approval uttered by junior high boys, I’d say.
I’ve long since mellowed greatly. A cat is not nearly so fun to do Halloween with as a young daughter. While yes, you can dress up a cat, they never seem to understand what all the fuss is about, and they’re absolutely no fun to take trick-or-treating. And Halloween has changed a bit over time, too – more trunk-or-treat events and fewer door-to-door ghouls and goblins as folks have grown more wary of soliciting goodies from unknown neighbors. Rather ironic, I think, that fear is something that would put the damper on Halloween for so many.
But I still revel in seeing kids, and parents, decked out for Halloween, particularly in creative costumes they’ve made themselves. It’s festive, it’s fun, and it’s fabulous. Here’s hoping all of you enjoyed this annual fright-fest and remember that it’s never too early to start planning for next year. If Christmas can be year-round, why not Halloween?