Candy and costumes have lined store shelves for weeks in preparation for the hullabaloo of Halloween, when sugar-seeking children watched by cautious parents collect treats at houses decorated with jack-o-lanterns and cobwebs.
This holiday fell off my list of favorites long ago, though I still stock up on miniature candy bars in case trick-or-treaters choose to wander through our neighborhood once they’ve exhausted the pleasures of downtown, where stores stay open late, hand out treats, and give prizes.
Then, disappointed that few children came to my door, I console myself by eating the leftover candy; such itty-bitty bites couldn’t possibly contain more than two or three calories. To finish my celebration, I feel queasy and go to bed. How festive.
As a teacher, the PTA-sponsored school party kept me busy. I found clown noses lost among the cupcakes, adjusted witches’ hats knocked askew in the spook alley, pinned up Tinker Bell’s tulle stepped on during the costume parade, and rescued Superman’s cape ripped off in a tussle with Igor.
I dreaded adult costume parties because I lacked creativity and inventiveness in costuming myself. While one friend used paint and cardboard to parade as Swiss cheese and another painted red dots on her exposed skin and attended as chicken pox, I tied on a sheet, stuck leaves in my hair, and attended as embarrassed Roman. Every year.
As a child, I participated in Halloween with all my heart, costumed and sugar-crazed, but also disappointed when grotesque monster masks and skeletons rattling in the wind failed to frighten me. For me, the scary trappings of Halloween didn’t compare to the terrifying tricks my friends and I inflicted on one another year around:
“See it?” Karol Ann whispered as we held our breath and searched the night with alarmed eyes. “It’s coming this way. It knows where we are!”
It had begun like any other summer get-together with my sister Carolyn and our friends, Sheila and Karol, walking through inky blackness from our house to theirs to sleep out on the front lawn.
Now suddenly—a mile from home with nothing but fields stretching away from the lane where we trembled beneath distant stars—our lives were in danger.
“The drain ditch,” I choked out, causing us to scramble, leap, and hide, listening intently for sounds of pursuit as our hearts thudded.
After several tense moments, we decided to peek through the weeds that lined the ditch’s edge, and Karol spotted the horrifying creature still intent on capturing us.
“Run!” Carolyn bellowed.
Screeching, we clawed out of the ditch and flew down the rutted lane — a glorious moment. Four friends, self-panicked, running pell-mell for home, deliciously scared witless.
Halloween could never compare.