Halloween is not my favorite holiday.
In fact, it’s only the supreme adorableness of the kids in my life that prevents me from becoming a total Halloween grinch! But when I was a kid, I loved it as much as every kid does. I loved the costumes, the candy, the excitement of going out after dark and exploring my own neighborhood – on that one night, it would seem strange and unfamiliar draped in cobwebs and illuminated by candles and flashlights. We used to go trick-or-treating for UNICEF (yes, I’m that old), and as my plastic pumpkin-basket filled up with candy and my little cardboard box got heavy with pennies and dimes, I felt rich in the best sense of the word. I had more candy than it was possible to eat, and I had heaps of gleaming coins to share with far away children in need. I felt magically enchanted by my own costume, and I always felt completely safe.
Candy was not something we usually had in the house. Mom didn’t buy candy at the grocery store, and we knew better than to ask for it. So it felt really special when we did get candy, and we made it last: Halloween candy lasted until Christmas, Christmas candy lasted until Easter, and there was just no way to make Easter candy last all the way until the next Halloween, but we sure tried. During the summer we supplemented our candy rations by riding our bikes to the Five-and-Dime for red-hot Fireballs and the completely illegal grape bubble gum that was guaranteed to somehow get stuck in your hair.
I don’t believe I ever, ever had a costume purchased from a store. Mom made our costumes when we were little, and we made them ourselves when we were older. Usually it was bits and pieces from the playroom costume box – a gypsy, a cowboy, an angel, a gypsy again. But I remember a few that took a lot of work – the year I was a cardboard-and-glitter star, the year I was a unicorn. Nobody had sexy costumes. Nobody had scary ones.
If I compare my own memories of childhood Halloween to the Halloweens of my adult life, handing out candy at the door of my own house to identical plastic-faced monsters who grab with both hands, I will just sound grumpy. I’ve had to look hard to find where the magic of Halloween has gone, but when I look hard, I can still find it here and there. My neighborhood has an annual block party, with fire-jugglers and games and prizes as well as old-fashioned trick-or-treating. It’s safe, and it’s crazy, and it’s worth dressing up for. My friend’s son made his own jellyfish costume by attaching streamers to an umbrella – instant magic – a giant sea creature inexplicably present among us! My awesome niece “rockin’ a fox tail” from the Renaissance Festival – the weekend after Halloween! She looked like she was secretly really a fox and her tail was just showing by accident… sometimes all you need is a tail to become another creature. And little Nova, on her first proper Halloween outing, dressed in a weird assortment of her own colorful clothing, staring wide eyed at the older princesses as they swirled by, climbing up the steps of each house, exhausted but determined, her little beach pail growing so heavy with candy that she was actually dragging it but would NOT allow anyone else to carry it for her, and repeating over and over like a magic formula, “trickertree thankoo, trickertree thankoo.”
It’s starting to win me over again.by