The ghosts of Halloweens past
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
When Roy was 2 we went, a few houses into Halloween night, to the home of creative Pam, who used to cut all our hair. A strobe light, a fog machine, spiders and thickly wrapped webs lined the walk, and Pam opened the door wearing white face paint, and bearing a scepter. “Hello, children,” she said in a deep, sepulchral voice.
Roy had until this moment been duly saying, “Tick or fweet!” Now he looked at her with huge eyes and said, “I’n not scared.”
He repeated that line all night, dozens of times, even when receiving candy: “I’n not scared.” Outside one house stood a man dressed as a rabbit, but with a mask and black teeth, handing out candy. That was the only time all night that Roy, who trudged slowly but insisted on walking, let himself be carried. As we got closer he repeated his mantra twice. The next day, unbidden, he told me, “I wasn’t scared of that rabbit.” Some of my adult friends, and even my spouse, dislike Halloween: The goblins, the mood, the candy. I have always loved it: The costumes, the night, the excitement and, for better or worse, the candy (the chocolate). My sibs are the same. My older sister lives in a building in Manhattan where a sign went up in the lobby asking if residents would like trick or treaters. Meg signed up excitedly, bought a big bowl of candy, stayed in, and then got only “one little ghost.”
We kids always trick-or-treated, clutching huge brown Safeway bags. I would wake up that morning thrilled that Halloween was really here. My own kids went out every year until last year, when Teddy, then 15, had an away football game.
I remember a lion suit, a beautiful hand-me-down made by my friend Julie’s mother-in-law, with a yarn mane that scared Teddy, newly 2, so much he wouldn’t wear it.
“Don’t you want to trick or treat?” I said, playing my trump.
He nodded but said firmly, “In my coat.”
A Captain Hook outfit came down from that same clever grandmother. Both my sons wore both, which then went back into the pool. Two years later, we took the boys, dressed as Daniel Boone and a knight, past a house where two masked teenage boys were sitting in the driveway with a plate of candy, so I suggested the kids sidetrack up there. But as we walked up the drive, where the two sat silent in their black clothes and scary masks, Roy whimpered and suddenly wailed.
One boy pulled off his mask, and swatted the other in the head, saying, “Du-ude, take off your mask!” The other did, but Roy, sobbing, refused candy and had to be borne away. As we left, Teddy vowed, “When I’m 16, I’m going to come back here and scare them.”
At some point Teddy began going with his friends rather than a parent. At one point he began going with groups that included girls. Still, every year until last, the next morning the two brothers would sit on the rug, and count, group, and compare candy.
This year, at 16, Teddy had a date and a party to go to. Roy, 13, still trick or treated, aiming for sheer volume. He didn’t need a jacket, he said. He and several friends would be running full speed from house to house. Our road doesn’t get trick or treaters, and I was feeling a little bereft until I went to City Market, seeing in the aisles a host of tiny kids either in costumes or anticipation. Sasha and Miles, 18-month-old twins, sported serious expressions and, respectively, a poodle and leopard suit. Liza, 2, told me, when asked, that she would be a bus. Yes, bus. Kenny, 2, was grave and important in a pirate suit and black boots.
A nice store employee ripped open a bag of candy, saying, “I just have to give some to the kids.
“I love Halloween,” she told me, and added, “It makes me miss when my kids were little.”
Alison Osius (firstname.lastname@example.org) lives in Carbondale.
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