The night of ghosts and goblins and other menacing apparitions has arrived once again. As I was preparing the treat bags for our neighbourhood's trick-or-treaters, about two hundred as a rule, I mused on how much my memories of Halloween mark different phases of my life.
When I was little, it was Auntie Kay who supervised and led our fearsome forays around the neighbourhood in our excited quest for treats. Auntie Kay held the considerable distinction of being the only adult we knew to costume up for the occasion. As a result, she was understandably much in demand as a chaperone. Her credentials were further enhanced by the fact that she really believed! The other adults in our world, assorted parents and aunts and uncles, lived up to our expectation of them as being old and stodgy. There were no store-bought costumes in those days, nor had anyone heard of Star Wars or 101 Dalmatians. No, costumes in those days were cheap and no-nonsense affairs - you were a ghost, a gangster, a witch or, if you were lucky enough to have a mother who sewed and had been bitten by the Halloween bug, a clown. Trick-or-treating was limited to kids under twelve - teenagers were too "cool" to be caught dead tarted up in fancy dress!
It was during my teen years that Auntie Kay faded from my Halloween scene, and my own Mom shone. She allowed, and enjoyed, or pretended to, those messy Halloween parties where we soaked the kitchen floor bobbing for apples. The marks are probably there in the doorjamb to this day of the screws that held the strings that held the apples for a game which involved two or three players who were to eat the apple without touching it, hands behind their backs. Why we should have imagined these games to be more dignified and adult than dressing up as Farmer John and begging for candy I can't imagine!
As a young teacher, Halloween meant class parties, children painstakingly, mouths and eyes screwed tight in concentration, cutting out decorations - the rows of pert black cats and garish orange pumpkins parading across the classroom windows, lovingly produced Halloween pictures so wonderful and bizarre as to strike terror into the hearts of the demons and vampires they depicted. One of the mothers always sent sugar cookies sprinkled with orange sugar. Johnny always cried because Mary had ripped his pumpkin picture - accidentally, she protested vigorously. Was not! Was so!
Once I began teaching high school, and traveling, Halloween became an inconspicuous holiday, and remained so until I had children of my own. And then, I discovered with delight, it was more fun than it had ever been. Costumes were planned in September - one year a bunny, another a clown. The youngest inherited the previous year's costume from her elder sister, except for the year she decided she wanted to go trick-or-treating as an Oreo. I'll never forget making that Oreo cookie - hours of gluing little pieces of brown construction paper around the rim of the cookie, and every piece glued with love and anticipation. What a sight she was .... not as cute as a bunny this year - as cute as a cookie! And, of course, that was the year it rained! And there were the jack o'lanterns fashioned with such care, one menacing, its counterparts grinning their demonic invitation. And there was the crisp, salty, toasty taste of the roasted pumpkin seeds. Mmmm...... wonderful!
Gradually, parties grew around the trick-or-treating, and children, teenagers and adults alike, decked out in the stuff of fantasies, filled the house, caught up in the spirit of the night. How we laughed and what fun we had!
My daughters are no longer teenagers, but young adults. On Halloween night they now prefer to meet friends at Van Gogh or to do the Rocky Horror Picture Show experience. But as I open the door to the shining eyes of little puppies and Darth Vaders, all the memories come flooding back of a lifetime of happy Halloweens.
Do you have Halloween memories to share? Whatever I find delightful I'll link to. Just mail me at
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