Tomorrow morning, for the umpty-umpth time, I will be the Halloween witch for the Christ’s Lutheran Nursery School classes. Every year, I need less costume, makeup and attitude adjustment to play this part. My annual shtick is to pretend to be a witch from somewhere else (Texas, Ireland), where the Halloween customs are comically different (the families give the trick or treaters pockets full of grits; everyone dresses like leprechauns and speaks Gaelic, etc.) The children take great delight in correcting me: “No, no, we don’t DO that! We don’t give people our money when they open their doors to us! We don’t collect dirty laundry at every house!” I enjoy these visits, but dread the holiday they presage.
You see, I never got into Halloween. I’m not a big candy eater, for one thing (except for Mounds bars. I buy big bags of these each October, ostensibly for the “kids,” but really I squirrel most of them away for me). For another, my formative years were spent on the lower East Side of Manhattan, not the safest of places even in the 60s. “Trick or treat” involved our parents ferrying us up and down in the elevator for an hour or so, stopping at the apartments of elderly neighbors who gave us poorly-wrapped cookies and mushy apples, all of which went straight to the trash can as soon as we got home. So I have no fond memories of bonfires and pumpkin patches and neighborhood parties, far from it.
When the kiddos were born, I braced myself for October 31st, knowing I would have to do my duty, traipse around town with my tiny ghosts and goblins, and purchase pounds of Snickers and Twix to parcel out to other friends’ tiny ghosts and goblins. And of course, my offspring all LOVED everything Halloween, anticipating the spooky fun for weeks. Our house decorations amounted to spider webs (the real ones, not store-bought!); our jack o’lantern was hastily carved immediately prior to our first night visitor. My creative sister C was responsible for some of their more successful flights of costume fancy: Sheridan’s lobster, Evan’s spaceman. Rose took the cake for most personally inventive: one year she was Olympian Kerri Strug on crutches (just Google her); once she was the Declaration of Independence. Every year, I pretended to be charmed by the parade of doorbell-ringing scavengers “don’t take the whole basketful, kids! Kids! I mean it!” and thrilled by the bounty my children brought home (does anybody really eat malted milk balls?) And every year, I rejoiced when it was time to turn out the lights and go to bed.
Lest you think I’m a total killjoy, I adore Christmas and happily fuss at Thanksgiving. I’ve even done my Easter bit, with egg dyeing and such (one year we did Ukrainian pysanky—just Google it). But there is something about Fright Night that doesn’t sit well with me. Let others revel in the dark side! Boo to All Hallows Eve, I say!