Deb Kelly here. I am so tickled that my post day fell on one of my favoritest holidays. Halloween is such a fantastic celebration, so very American in its expression, so all-inclusive and nondenominational and indiscriminate in its merriment that I truly believe it should be a federal holiday. (Although, that being said, who would want to stay home from school or work on the one day a year you can wear fuzzy ear headbands or sparkling wings without scorn?)
I love everything about this day. The way it forces us outside just as the weather is growing uncomfortably cold. The way we knock on neighbors’ doors, perhaps for the only time that year, and shout at them until they give us sugar. The way even adults start thinking about what they’ll be dressing up as the minute they turn to October on their google calendar, the pumpkin patches you ride a tractor to get to, the Addams family marathons on tv, the one guy on every street who just goes too crazy with strange stuffed ‘bodies’ on the lawn. I love its pagan history, and its personal history. Because you can’t get much older than 10 in this nation without having a Halloween to remember. In my mid-thirties I have more than I could ever relate.
Here’s a glimpse into my personal history with Halloween. I hope you’ll share yours in the comments, so I can collect them in my imagination and add even more meaning to this magical day.
- Trick-or-treating in my bestie’s neighborhood when we were so small that the missing sidewalks and long dark walks between houses in my own country neighborhood were not conducive to maximum candy haul. One year Jennifer was a tiger, the next a clown. The year after that, a tiger. Then a clown. Jennifer was and is a practical woman. Me less so—the only common theme in my costumes year over year is that they were inscrutible to anyone other than me. The door creaking open in house after house and adults crying gleefully, “Oh, a tiger! And a… what are you supposed to be, honey?”
- My older brother setting up positively cinematic haunted houses in our basement for me and my delighted friends to squeal our way through. I loved him for it, until my girlfriends fell in love with him for it. It was sort of a nightmare on two levels, having to hear how sweeeeeeeet and cuuuuuuute my icky older brother was, just seconds before he jumped out at us in a horrifying zombie mask. But secretly I was so proud to be his sister.
- Suiting up as a –oh modern wonder!—CAR PHONE in a gigantic foam costume on behalf of a sponsor at a halloween benefit when I was in high school. The phone suit was a blessing on two levels—one that the company who provided the suit paid so handsomely to have it wander around the safe halloween party for kids of all abilities. And two that I could avoid having to come up with a stupid sexy cat costume like all the other girls in my class.
- Wandering through the hallowed halls of the American Museum of Natural History dressed as Word Girl, the PBS heroine who saves the world one vocabulary word at a time. I volunteered there as a docent year round, but Halloween was the day when it all paid off in big ego dividends. For one day every year I was the hottest A-List celeb the museum could ever host. Kids would drop whatever priceless fossil they were holding and dash over to Word Girl positively shaking with excitement. The costume was so ungainly that I had to have a special shadow guide me through the museum, whispering things like, “Do you need to hydrate?” and “Nod twice when you need to use the bathroom.” This, dear friends, is what I imagine it is like to be a movie star.
- Closing on our first (and so far only) house on Halloween and then rushing to the store to buy candy and get ready for trick-or-treaters for the first time. We rustled through the boxes and boxes and boxes in our new house until we found something approximating constumes (was I bubble wrap that year?) and then met our neighbors—or at least their kids—with so much candy we could have fed the entire city of Madison.
- And this year, taking the BLB to an indoor Halloween party at a local hotel with friends. It was pouring down rain outside and the BLB started out in a terrible mood, terrified of his toucan/parrot/I don’t know what bird it is supposed to be costume, overwhelmed by the sheer number of strangers in every direction. But within minutes we found a dimly lit room decorated in a space theme, with a giant adult-sized alien who was friendly, gave out stickers and ruled over the greatest invention of all time: a bubble machine. And under the alien’s careful ministrations, the little tropical bird man relaxed, gazed at the bubbles, and fell in love with his mother’s favorite holiday.