Sunday, October 28, 2012

On Halloween Past

For three years in a row, I was a black cat. With long whiskers and a little nose drawn on my face with eyeliner, a tight headband with felt ears, and a black turtleneck and leggings, I pranced around our neighborhood, meowing, hissing, and embracing my role with verve and vigor. Sure, I wasn’t the most creative at dressing up for Halloween, but it was a holiday I loved nonetheless.
I looked forward to scooping squishy handfuls of guts and seeds out of big orange pumpkins. On such occasions, Mama would cover the kitchen table in yesterday’s newspaper, preparing the work space of the family artist: Daddy. Daddy’s deft hand would then trace that year’s masterpiece onto the surface of the pumpkin. I loved to watch him, as he cut out each sliver and chunk, the spooky face of the gourd emerging before my very eyes.
After the carving was complete and as the sun was setting, we’d deliver, with much ceremony, the finished Jack O’Lantern to its rightful spot on the front porch. Mama would place a small tea-light in the bottom, light the wick, and Jack would come to life, glowing spookily in the early dusk of the October night.
These memories of early Halloweens are still treasured, and the same sort of excitement that gripped me as a child when the air would cool and pumpkins would start popping up on front porches still bubbles up every fall.
In a perfect recreation of that childhood ritual, Jeremy and I line the kitchen table with newspaper. The perfect pumpkin, which has been chosen with much consideration to carving surface, stem, and color, graces the table, as my mad scientist husband brews up a suitably unique theme. Last year was “Cannipumpkin,” in which a smaller pumpkin was affixed to the larger one as if it was being eaten. This year the theme seems to be leaning towards zombies; they’re trendy right now, and we want to be as timely as possible.
My grown-up Halloween doesn't include the trick-or-treating of childhood days gone by, and to be honest, I sometimes miss the process of going door-to-door, smiling shyly, and receiving the fruits of my labor. I miss getting home from a hard day’s night and dumping that plastic pumpkin and all of its treasure into the living room floor. Organized child that I was, I would group my candy by type and color. The bounty of Snickers bars, Smarties, and Dum-dum pops would sustain my sweet tooth for days.
Nowadays, I have to purchase my own trick-or-treat candy for those potential ghosts and goblins that will grace my front porch on Halloween night. I wish I could attest to being one of the “good houses” with the best candy, but alas, the alarmingly high price of that “best candy” means we offer mostly off-brand fare. Nevertheless, we still get to enjoy the antics of trick-or-treaters, even though we’re a little bit too big to join them. I’m lucky enough to live in a big, friendly neighborhood with lots of families…which is an even bigger reason we have to go with the cheaper candy.
There’s just something really special about Halloween. It’s the only holiday that occurs during my favorite month. It’s at the perfect time of the year weather-wise. It’s got candy. And even more important, it’s got that special combination of mystery, spookiness, and family-time that makes for some wonderful memories.
Happy Halloween! May your trick-or-treat bag be filled with Snickers, Milk Duds, and Skittles and all the other great goodies of the "good houses."

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