My cell phone rang the other night when I was out for my walk. It was my oldest grown son, calling home to chat with his mother. “Hello” I answered. “Hi, Mom, have you gone Halloween crazy yet?” Ah, this boy knows his mother well.
He knows that every year at this time, the black and orange Rubbermaid boxes will make their way up the basement steps and the house— both inside and out— will be decked to the hilt for fall and Halloween (and Thanksgiving after that). He knows strands of orange lights will adorn the deck (coming after the red, white and blue lights which have hung there since around Memorial Day and before the blue lights that will go up for Christmas). He knows there will be jack-o-lanterns, scarecrows, pumpkins, witches and cute little ghosts (no real scary here) peppered all around the house, most likely covering any available table space. He knows there will be the scent of fall in the house with the aroma of pumpkin and cinnamon spices wafting from candles and tea lights.
Halloween and fall was my favorite time of the year when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s and it still is. The neighborhood kids would start making our Halloween and Trick-or-treating plans in the late summer, deciding on our costumes and making homemade decorations. My parents both loved Halloween too. It was a fun time in our neighborhood and it was one day of the year you could be assured that my dad would be home from the airport early to take his three daughters and the droves of neighborhood kids trick-or-treating. My mother always made a pot of chili and grilled cheese sandwiches on Halloween. Neighborhood moms often dressed up to sit on porches to hand out their candy. There were the neighborhood traditions of Mrs. Hibler two doors down who would dress as a witch every year and sit on her front porch in a rocking chair or porch swing. You had to go right up to her to get your candy and she never said a word. Even though I knew this sweet, dear neighbor, I can still remember hugging my dad’s leg and being scared to walk up on her porch. There was Mrs. Baldridge, the elderly lady next door to us who every single Halloween spent no telling how many hours making caramel popcorn balls to hand out to the kids. Bless her heart…. I never ate mine. There was Mrs. Byrne across the street who usually dressed up too and who just about always handed out apples. There were the Henshaws who one year gave the best neighborhood Halloween party ever with Halloween games like bobbing for apples and even a neighborhood hay ride.
In the 60s and 70s, most neighbors displayed Jack-o-lanterns on Halloween night. My dad always carved our pumpkin the night before Halloween. Many, like my parents, had them burning brightly on Halloween night in the front picture window but most neighbors put them out on the front porch.
We usually wore homemade costumes and the old hard plastic masks that were so uncomfortable and scratchy—the ones where your breath caused so much condensation that your face, usually your upper lip, would be dripping wet within minutes. The mask held to the back of your head with a thin light gray rubber band which was attached to the mask with staples. I can still smell those old masks. My mother kept our Halloween masks and costumes in an old cedar chest so whenever I smell cedar (or that old cedar chest which now sits at the end of my bed), memories of Halloween come flooding back to me. That cedar chest didn’t get opened much, and when it did, you could bet Halloween was just around the corner.
My sisters and I would come home from trick-or-treating and dump our candy out on the living room floor. We’d sort it and then begin our “candy trading” fest. My parents would not allow us to eat anything that wasn’t wrapped so all that went into the trash. There were always a ton of those Mary Jane peanut butter kisses (the candy in the orange and black waxy wrappers). I was always the weird kid who loved those things. There were always lots of Bit-o-honey (I’m certain I had good teeth ripped right out of my head by those things) and the wax lips (I loved those too). My dad and I always liked anything with licorice so that was like a special treat. Occasionally, if you were really lucky, there would be a candy necklace. The thing I hated the most was those nasty orange marshmallow circus peanuts that tasted like perfume to me. Ugh.
Photo credit: www.blankmaninc.com
There’s just something about Halloween I love. What fun it was walking door to door in the crisp fall night air— the sound of crunching fallen leaves under your feet. There are certain smells I associate with Halloween. The smell of the damp air and the fall leaves, the occasional smells of chocolate and other candies and the smell of burning pumpkin from a candle burning bright inside a goofy-faced jack-o-lantern.
So yes, son, your mother has gone Halloween crazy again this year. Wish you were here. We had some pretty fun Halloween times, didn’t we?
On November 1st, all the witches, ghosts and jack-o-lanterns will be packed away for another year and I’ll pull out the pilgrims and turkeys to replace them. The fall leaves, pumpkins and scarecrows stay out through Thanksgiving.
What about you? Do you enjoy decorating in the fall? For Halloween? Thanksgiving?