Halloween, believe it or not, is a current topic. I base this on the fact that my seven year-old daughter insists that as of September 17, the Halloween decorations should be up. Almost everyone I know who used to be a child agrees that Halloween was (or is) one of their all time favorite holidays. It certainly was one of mine. I mean, dressing up + scary stories + getting to go out and play after dark + ridiculous amounts of candy is a recipe for a fabulous good time.
I had some pretty pathetic costumes growing up. I was never really consulted on what they were going to be, and I never questioned that. My mom made the costumes when I was real little. I was Heidi one year, and Casper the Friendly Ghost, and a skeleton one year. Your basic boring Halloween fare (except I have no idea how my mom came up with Heidi), and I was fine with that. My dad would take me and some of the other neighborhood kids out and walk us around the subdivision. We had a dentist around the corner, who of course gave out apples and toothbrushes. Booo. I remember I was enraged and heartbroken one year because some little punks drove by in a car and hit my dad with an egg. I think it humiliated him and I was humiliated for him.
Of course, after returning home from trick-or-treating, the candy ritual began. The bag was dumped out on the living room floor and piles were made: one for chocolate, one for sweet tarts and other tangy stuff, one for candy of lesser interest, and one for those awful peanut butter chew things wrapped in mustard colored paper that I hated. Then some serious eating would began, and I would go to bed queasy. I would hide the rest of the candy in my hiding places throughout the house so it wouldn’t be confiscated.
When I got too old to go trick-or-treating, I gave out candy. Of course I was never satisfied with just standing in the door and handing out candy; I had to mess with the poor little kiddies. One year I remember setting up a cardboard box with a red and white plastic gingham tablecloth, cutting a head-sized hole in the box, and wrapping a paper plate with a cut in the back around the neck to make me look like a disembodied head on a plate. I had my folks help me put ketchup on the plate to look like blood and the bowl of candy was on the table next to me. I warned the kids in a grim voice not to take too much candy or the disembodied (I don’t think I used that word but I could have – I was a little too precocious for my own good) head would get them. It was all fun and games until a little girl burst into tears because I terrified her. I felt bad and tried to climb out of the box to show her I was OK, but I staggered around underneath it and got ketchup on me and convinced her that I was in even worse shape than previously thought.
Halloween as a grown person got fun again. People started having Halloween parties and we loved them. Of course, no woman could dress in a silly or awkward costume; we all had to be Playboy bunnies or naughty nurses or about anything else that would allow us to dress in a sluttier than usual manner. That was our night to shine! I remember one year my college roommates and I had a Halloween party with a keg in our apartment and on the spur of the moment I invited my parents. That was unusual because we had been a bit estranged in the previous few years and I don’t really know why I did it, but they came and we had a terrific time. My dad dressed as a judge (he was a law professor) with a wig and all, and Mom dressed as a witch in all black with a big witches hat with a spider dangling off of it. They were the belles of the ball and everyone enjoyed talking to them, especially when some of my dad’s law students showed up, and he held court over at the keg.
After I went to medical school and residency, Halloween petered out for me, mainly because I seemed to always be on call whatever night the Halloween parties were. That was a lot discouraging and made me a bit bitter. However, when I lived in New Orleans, we had Mom’s Ball. MOM stood for Misfits Orphans and Misfits and it was a blast. We wore ridiculous costumes – one year my friend made a cow suit our of synthetic leather material and went as a Nauga. I wore cowboy boots and fishnet stockings and went as a nauga herder. After I left New Orleans, Halloween wasn’t really fun again until my daughter came along.
My daughter’s first Halloween she was five months old and I bought her a Halloween costume. She was a little baby bumblebee with black and yellow stripes and a head band with little antennae on it. My husband said that he totally didn’t understand why I would waste money on a costume when our daughter had no idea she was wearing it. And later I took pictures of her in her costume and they became some of my husband’s favorite pictures and then I think he understood.
I did have the order of my daughter’s costumes memorized but the memory is starting to fade after nearly seven Halloweens. The year after the bee, she was a “guck”. She had an obsession with ducks that was overreaching, and anywhere we went that we saw a “guck”, she had to have it. So of course she had to be a guck for Halloween. We took her to an outdoor street party for Halloween and she so wanted to get in the bouncy house with the bigger kids. She wasn’t even big enough to get onto it – she was just toddling – but when the crowd thinned out we helped her up and she got to bounce a little bit. The next year I think she was a ballerina, and she looked so cute in her tights and glittery tutu. That year she was big enough for the bouncy house. After that the years begin to blur together a bit; I remember one year she was a monarch butterfly and she made a beautiful one. Last year she was Cleopatra and that was a pretty elaborate costume. Oh, and one year she was SuperGirl. The SuperGirl year was the first year she was interested in having any input into what she wore, and I wasn’t really crazy about the costume but that was what she wanted so we got it.
Every year since she was three, we have been having our daughter’s best friend IA come over to trick-or-treat with us. IA lives in a neighborhood that is impossible for trick-or-treating, with mammoth hills everwhere and big dark trees and dark streets. We would have worn ourselves out just walking up one driveway – you can’t even see the houses from the bottom of them. Our neighborhood is nice and flat and very safe – there is only one entrance in or out and the neighborhood is out of town a bit and people don’t usually show up there unless they have business there. Now some of the nearby neighborhoods come to ours because it is a fairly affluent area and I guess they think we give out better candy. Last year IA had a high fever and couldn’t come and I remember we were all so disappointed.
There is one house in our neighborhood that is the ultimate destination and the last stop of the evening for the kids in our neighborhood. One of our neighbors used to own a Christmas (and other holiday) decoration shop before she became a real estate agent, and for most every holiday, her place is a showplace. She goes all out for Halloween, with animated ghouls and scarecrows, and groaning noises, and a smokemaker and startling screams. When A was littler she was too scared to go there but now she’s a proud grown-up girl and she’ll march right up there. Her friend IA is a little more iffy.
So A wants to get out the decorations. We have a few – a bat and spider to hang on the foyer lamps and a black cat with an arched back to put on the foyer floor. We have a pumpkin wreath my mom gave me and a metal haunted house that you can put a tea light in. We have a fiberoptic pumpkin that I ordered from my nurse long before I had a child and I was just ordering stuff from her Avon catalogue to help her out. We have spooky black candlestick holders that make the candles sit all crooked and a cute cloth witch with bloomers on who sits on the hutch in the dining room. Amanda thinks we need more decorations, and I am inclined to agree with her. Unfortunately, my husband will not allow me to put hay bales on the porch; they cause mold or spiders or something.
So soon we will be shopping for Halloween costumes for A again and I am sure she will be the one to pick exactly what it is (with a little careful steering from Mom) and we will do the Halloween ritual all over again. We will leave candy on the porch since we will be out with our little one, and with any luck IA will be with us again this year. This year may be a little different, because for the first time in a good while, I will be on call this Halloween. I really hope I don’t miss the trick-or-treating, because it is fun to see the kids having fun and it is a good chance to get together with the parents in the neighborhood and get to know them a little better. Who knows – maybe I will wear my giant green lizard costume to the hospital and deliver babies in my green hat with googly eyes!