Tonight candles are lit and the house is decked out in orange and black decorations and orange lights. A jack-o-lantern sits on the front porch and there’s a full bowl of candy sitting on the foyer table. An occasional spook knocks on the door and holds out a trick- or-treat bag. Our hilly neighborhood is not real trick-or-treat friendly so we usually get just a handful of kids on Halloween.
My mind wanders back to childhood. How my mother always made chili and grilled cheese sandwiches on Halloween night. How my sisters and I were practically frantic with excitement in trying to get out the door before the sun barely had a chance to go down. I remember the hectic pace of the night– trying to get on costumes, make-up or masks, wigs, etc. How our mother would help us in between stirring her chili and popping another grilled cheese in the skillet. She would stay home and hand out candy on Halloween night while my dad would take us trick-or-treating. I remember how she would smile and laugh when we would later come knock at her door and how she gave us and our friends a little extra candy. It was fun getting to pretend and dress up and be anyone you wanted to be for a night. I miss my mother on Halloween.
I remember my dad always carving a pumpkin the night before Halloween. And how three little girls hovered around him and that pumpkin. He’d ask us if we wanted that jack-o-lantern to have a smile or a frown. After he carved it, he would place it on the marble-topped table in the living room in front of the picture window. People often displayed jack-o-lanterns in living room windows back in the 60s. My mother would put a candle in that pumpkin and I can still smell the candle burning and warming up the orange stringy insides of that pumpkin. I miss my parents on Halloween.
Halloween was a night that we were guaranteed our dad would be home from the airport before dark to take his three daughters trick-or-treating. He loved Halloween as much as we did. There was just something about Halloween night and how it had a feeling like no other night. How the leaves crunched under our feet walking through yards. How the fall chill would be in the air which would cause those old plastic scratchy masks from the 60s to form condensation inside of them and how your upper lip would be wet and dripping in just minutes of being outside and eventually your whole face would be wet from your hot breath forming condensation inside that mask. My dad would walk with us and all our friends from the neighborhood and stand at the street while we ran up to knock on doors. Sometimes while standing up on the porch, I would turn around to look for my father. He was always there smoking his pipe or his cigar. I could see him in the distance and see the light from the cigar or the light from the match as he was constantly relighting his pipe. And I remember ole Mrs. Hibler two doors down who always dressed as a witch on Halloween night. She sat on her front porch and she never said a word. Just sat there and beckoned us scared kids to come get the candy from her bowl. I would grab my father around the legs but he would laugh and reassure me that I was safe. With gentle prodding by my dad, I found my courage to go up to sweet Mrs. Hibler who wouldn’t hurt a flea but darn if she wasn’t all scary in that witch costume. I miss Mrs. Hibler on Halloween.
There was the usual caramel pop corn balls that our next door neighbor, Mrs. Baldridge would hand out every year. She was an elderly woman who probably slaved away in her kitchen for 2 days making those homemade popcorn balls for us every year. And there was Mrs. Hamilton down the street who would set up a card table in her living room and invite us in to walk around that table taking whatever we wanted. Mrs. Hamilton always had a variety of full-sized candy bars which was quite a treat. And there was Mrs. Byrne diagonally across the street who always gave out apples on Halloween. It’s funny the things you remember. I miss my old neighbors on Halloween.
There was the year my Halloween sack dragged the ground and busted. My seven-year old self stood there like a fool sobbing and stomping my foot as I looked down at all my candy sprawled right there all over the road. My father taught me that the world doesn’t come to an end just because a trick-or-treat bag busts. I miss my dad at Halloween.
My sisters and I would come home at the end of trick-or-treating with full bags of candy. We’d sit in the middle of the living room floor, dump out our sacks, sort our treats into piles and the candy trading would begin. My father would not allow us to eat any candy that wasn’t wrapped and so that had to be discarded. We would finish our candy trade-off and put our Halloween bags next to our beds. I remember many times when my sisters and I would wake up to the sound of our father rummaging through our sacks. I’m sure he was after his favorite treat– licorice. I miss my dad on Halloween.
And when I grew up, married, and had kids of my own, I would take them to my parents’ house on Halloween to trick-or-treat in the old neighborhood. It was a tradition. And two doors down would be ole Mrs. Hibler, still dressing up as a witch after all these years and handing out candy. My mother would take a little orange mini pumpkin and draw a jack-o-lantern face on it and give one to each of her grandsons. I remember my oldest sleeping with his squash on Halloween night. Yep, found him snuggling that tiny squash in the bed one Halloween night just like a kid would snuggle a teddy bear. My heart smiled and my mother laughed the next day when I called her on the phone and told her the boy had slept with his squash. I miss my mother on Halloween.
I had a sack of children’s Halloween books and I would read those books to my sons in the weeks before Halloween. It was a tradition. We’d lay on the bed and read those crazy stories and laugh ourselves silly. We would decorate the house both inside and out and we’d all get into the Halloween spirit. We would carve jack-o-lanterns the night before Halloween. We’d go trick-or-treating and when we’d get home, the kids would sort their candy just as my sisters and I did. There was that same Halloween chill in the air and the sound of leaves crunching under our feet. Sometimes we would visit pumpkin farms and go on hay rides or visit corn mazes. We would bake Halloween cupcakes or make spider cakes. My children are grown now. I miss my children on Halloween.