When I was a kid, it never failed but Halloween would be a frigid, rainy day. Whatever costume you had and were so incredibly proud to show off would be hidden beneath your winter coat, scarf, hat and mittens, only to be shared at the school party or local community costume party. This was before all such events were considered pagan or religious and banned from schools. Halloween parties were the best, because unlike the Valentine or Christmas parties, no gifts or cards were exchanged and no one felt left out if they didn’t get a card or gift from their “special” friend. Rarely were costumes purchased, either, so it was a creative collaboration between parent and child to come up with a suitable costume. Even the ever-popular-oh-so-simple bed sheet ghost was accepted with as much glee as the neighborhood vampire.
My favorite costume for several years was a gypsy getup that my grandmother had given me. It consisted of a gauzy rust orange colored skirt, a billowy yellow shirt, long deep red sash, and huge hoop earrings – made for non-pierced little girls’ ears. I wore that costume for several years in a row until if finally, literally, fell apart. Many years later I would find an old picture of my mother (the one who died when I was three) wearing the same costume. I often wondered if she loved it as much as I did. She seemed pretty happy in the picture.
I remember my father being a stickler for the “trick” before the “treat”. Kids better not come to our house unprepared, for they would never receive a treat just for showing up. Even a badly told joke was better than nothing and would get its just reward. That, of course, worked in reverse. I must not leave the house without a properly rehearsed joke (Have I mentioned I have a mental block about jokes? I love them, but can never remember one – even one I’ve just been told. I must write it down if I expect to relay it.) or, in my case, a song. It was just a little ditty that I think we learned in school, but it was something I could remember and warble out in passable fashion.
These, too, were the days before you had to be suspicious of everything in your candy sack. X-raying of the goodies was still far into the future and the razor blades / pins / poisons were all happening “somewhere else”. The homemade treats were always the best – the hand wrapped brownies, popcorn balls, and caramel apples beat out the “fun size” candy every time. (I don’t remember it being called “fun size” at the time, though. Can’t remember what they did call it… hmmm… The memory, she is a-goin’.)
Then, of course, there was the inevitable candy inspection when you got home. Although no one was looking for razor blades or pins, it was a known fact that Dad must have his cut of the loot. Seems to me my children had to go through the same thing. I guess there are some things that never change, huh?
I was in the yard last night near dusk and the combine was going through the field right outside our house. There was the faint aroma of burning leaves in the air. The rustle of the dry corn husks and the leaves that have started turning and falling all joined to flash me back to those Halloweens long ago… have I mentioned I love fall?