The Best Halloween Block Party Ever
Good neighbors make good times
Kids in our neighborhood played together almost every day. Halloween was when our parents joined the fun. With a little planning and creativity, they put on an unbeatable block party year after year.
At the appointed hour, we rang the Carson's* doorbell and waited among their Jack-o-Lanterns. Parents set up pot-luck dishes on the buffet counter, and kids swarmed around the big dining room and bigger front room. Their house was well-worn from its basketball team of teenagers, but it had enough room for everyone. They were always generous enough to host the Halloween potluck.
The food varied from cute, plain 'little kid' options, to truly creative contributions (possibly unique on the planet).
- Main courses: Spaghetti and Eyeballs (hard-boiled eggs), Roast Beast (ham with a party hat). Toasted "ghosties" with white cheese melting down over a scoop of tuna or a meatball; mini-pizzas with black olive eyes and toothy pepperoni grins.
- Sides: Quiche. Smashed Potatoes (purple potatoes or orange yams). Shipwreck Squash - stuffed wedges, garnished with tentacled seafood. Garden 'grub' salad - fat white gnocchi hiding among the leaves. Ketchup "gore" over carrot sticks, hot-dogs, fries, or any 'finger' food. Ordinary steamed greens (eew!).
- Desserts: Dirt and Worms (chocolate custard with gummy worms, topped / tossed with chocolate cookie crumbles). Shortbread "fingers" with red-frosted nails.
By the time we sampled everything, we were stuffed with savory treats. Then it was on to the horrors, games, and sweets.
Our dinner hosts liked to start things off with a good old-fashioned haunted house. They had basement rooms we never saw in the daytime. With growing and creative boys, they had enough old clothes and costume masks to make an astonishing assortment of monsters, witches, scarecrows, and dead-rising-out-of-coffins.
One year, they did "Mystery Bins" with a slot to put our hands in. Their teenage boys asked, "Guess which one is Eyeballs? Spider legs? Live worms?" Their 'innocent' little sisters would giggle while we squirmed and guessed...... it always turned out to be peeled grapes, twigs, and a wind-up toy buried in noodles. The worst was "intestines," half-deflated animal balloons greased with Vaseline.
We'd trick-or-treat along the street, and every few houses, the parents would welcome us to a new installment of The Party. Hot spiced cider at the Hurley's, making our own Caramel Apples at Mrs. William's. Musical Chairs to spooky music, all clumsy in our masks and tails. A few adults would go home to answer doors, and join in again when the party came by.
We passed the darkened Myers house on the way. The Myers' religion didn't allow them to celebrate holidays - not even birthdays. When it wasn't her birthday, Missy Myers was allowed to have four friends for a sleepover, and I was only allowed one, even on my birthday. But she wasn't allowed any 'birthday' party at all, and their house stayed dark on every holiday. It was haunting, but none of our business. We missed them on Halloween.
Our household was next. I never thought my parents worked very hard at our activity - we just picked something easy after other families chose their games. (In retrospect, I think this is what all the families did. The 'easy' thing for each family was different, and it all added up to more fun than anybody could have come up with alone.)
Our Mom did different things different years. We might do a craft project like decorating cupcakes or loot bags, or tell silly 'ghost stories' by candlelight, or play a simple old-fashioned game like Blind Man's Bluff. One year we made a special effort: we prepared a "spiderweb" where each strand of yarn zigzagged back and forth to a hidden party favor. With one strand for each neighborhood child, that was a lot of zigs!
If Dad had a chance to practice his guitar, he'd play us songs about shipwrecks, lost dragons, and rollicking ghosts.
Along the second part of our street, there were a lot of older couples, with candy but no games. It got darker, and colder, and the candles guttered. By the time we trick-or-treated our way to the last house, we were ready to come inside again.
The Weaver family had two friendly girls, and liked happy, harvest-themed games. Mrs. W would serve us fresh caramel-corn, and we'd bob for apples or pin a tail on a low-budget paper 'monster.'
We never minded the cheerful atmosphere at that last house on the block. Children were getting tired. And waiting turns gave us time to count our candy. The adults seemed relaxed, too.
If we were still feeling loot-deprived after all that, we might go trick-or-treating on nearby streets. Even as a teen, I don't remember ever going more than a few blocks for extra candy. We were pretty well satisfied.
We had the Best Halloween Block Party Ever.
*Names changed for privacy - and some descriptions changed due to fickle memory.
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