The Grinch of Halloween Rides Again
Happy Plastic Halloween
What a curmudgeon I have become! Halloween used to be so much fun—back when I was a kid. The holiday was all about us scaring ourselves. Ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night. I remember crouching out behind the wash house with my Bierly cousins, under a table covered with a sheet, the moon throwing shadows from the trees. We told ghost stories, each one more terrifying than the last. Over at my other cousins, the Bells, we huddled around a piano in the dark, the base notes drumming up the drama as we took turns topping the last tale of terror. We sure knew how to have fun. I wonder what it was in our makeup as children that we enjoyed deliberately setting out to feel scared.
I lived in the country, so going door-to-door trick-or-treating was not an option. My favorite Halloween memory was the year when my Grandmother took us to the Rehobeth Club, a kind of community center out in the country, for a party. All our neighbors were there. The clubhouse was decorated with corn shucks, straw bales, orange and black crepe paper streamers. Scarecrows were propped in the corners with jack-a-lanterns leering at their feet, candles throwing fluttering light from within—now that really should have been scary! Think of the liability!
We created our own Halloween costumes, of course. My cousin Shirley and I pawed through the attic, dragged possibilities into the hallway, and cobbled our costumes together. I went as a hobo. We stitched patches onto some of my fathers discarded work clothes, already ragged. My mask from the dime store was made of rubber. Shirley dressed as a great lady, draped in lace curtains hung together with plenty of safety pins. Her mask was a molded form that fit over her eyes. She sneaked make-up from her older sister and troweled it on heavily. We worked all afternoon making huge papier-mache ghost heads that we attached to broom handles. At the party we gobbled donuts, drank punch, dunked for apples, played games, danced and, to our astonishment, won a prize for our costumes. When the party was over, all the children were given small brown bags of hard candies and a popcorn ball. That Halloween was wonderful!
When my children were little I never had money for store-bought costumes, cheap and shiny though they were. They begged and pleaded. I said no. So I taught them to be creative, to search out materials to build new personas. One particularly lean year we all became ghosts, wearing thrift-store sheets with holes cut out for the eyes. We made a walking tour through the neighborhood, bags in hand, gathering loot. I waited in the dark at the end of each driveway for their return. Now and then I talked them into giving me a treat. We always returned home tired and happy, faces smeared with chocolate.
Times, they are a-changing. Several weeks ago, while visiting at my daughter’s house, I watched her cruise through an on-line costume shop, dithering over a choice from costumes with sixty dollar price tags. I, of course, was appalled. If I lived anywhere nearby, I would take my granddaughter in hand and we would make a costume with found objects. Of course, she’d probably balk. She likes and wants the plastic “princess” look, just like every other modern four-year-old girl. They will drive to the brightly lit mall, go store to store, holding out a shopping bag for the clerks to dump in handfuls of candy. With not even a walk through the dark and spooky night, ghosts and goblins lurking behind every bush, won’t they be bored out of their little minds? Poor kids.
I’ll buy candy for the children who might come to my door Halloween night. But I’ll choose the candy that I like best because I might be stuck with most of it. There are several more kids in my neighborhood this year than last year though. So maybe, if I am lucky, some ghoulies and goblins and long-legged beasties will knock at my door to scare me silly.
HDN: Looking out my back door
October 28, 2010