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HUB IN THE HOOD: Scarce Halloween: Even Scarier

Updated on March 25, 2013

Scarce Halloween: Even Scarier

At our house, Halloween is second only to Christmas. The kids and I start planning for Halloween the way a middle school girl with a crush starts planning her fantasy wedding. We’ll be on our way to the city pool on a hot day in June and my son will say, “I was thinking about a zombie…” Immediately we all know he is sharing his ideas concerning his choice of costume for All Hallow’s Eve. Once last spring we were sitting in a dark matinee, watching an animated flick when my daughter leans over and whispers, “Now THAT would make a great costume…” We made notes for future reference.

Perhaps it’s the fact that I was a theatre major in college. Maybe it is because I spent my childhood honing my impersonations of friends and family. (my mother would say, “stop acting like so-n-so, be yourself for once!”) It could be my life-long obsession with publicly lip-syncing to the music broadcast in stores and restaurants. The fact that I married a man who shares my habit of randomly breaking into foreign accents at the slightest provocation doesn’t help. My daughter and I save all our false eyelashes and wear them whenever the urge hits us. The purple ones are especially nice. It is not uncommon for a leftover Halloween wig to float around the house for months. I once had a red devil wig that adorned someone’s head at least once a month for a year. I even wore it to a PTO meeting.

Choosing the right Halloween costume is a cherished ritual in our family; one that demands great patience. Some folks might spend an entire month deciding on the perfect anniversary gift. We spend eleven months discussing next year's “show”. My mother was a professional seamstress for years, and yet sewing never interested me. Should one of the kids need a cape to accompany the perfect costume, I am suddenly a needle-wielding wizard. For kicks, my daughter will look at costumes online. “Mom, look at this fairy – why is her skirt so short?” The selection is not what it was back in the day. Cruising through Halloween catalogs seems like cheating anyway when you could, instead, lose yourself in a veritable vortex of hot glue guns and tin foil, papier mache and felted hats, feathers and fake scabs and Lee press-on nails painted black. The thrill is in the sheer invention of the costume itself. Some people wear a costume. We become the costume. We pride ourselves on the craftsmanship of our works. We are total snobs even when we’re out doing “the rounds”. “Awwww….a fairy. How cute she is…that was in the catalog….I saw that one at WalMart…”

For most kids, the big night is all about the candy score. This is good for us, as well, but what other time of year can you walk the streets looking like you were just chained to Jabba the Hut, or maybe hit by an eighteen wheeler? I could actually be Sister Teresa – you know, instead of simply being compared to her. You can be anything you want! And this is where it gets interesting. Not only is Halloween as we know it changing for the worse – er, I mean safer – but the whole costume business is changing, too.

When I was a young'un, my Mom made all of our costumes. I was Princess Leia three times - one for each movie. My brother was Yoda (I'll never forget the green papier mache ears my mom made for him - and the old people cried, "Look at that ADORABLE viking!!") We were hobos, Ghost Busters, monsters, an Indian with a papoose and a quiver of arrows...the list goes on and on.

It wasn't just the parade of costumes - it was the FOOD. I knew I was a Foodie early on when I could not wait - at the tender age of 6 - to climb the endless concrete steps to Mrs. Walter's house so I could get one of her prized home-made caramel popcorn balls. She would wrap them in Saran wrap and secure the top with an orange ribbon - those popcorn balls were the size of my face and I couldn't wait to get home and eat one! And Mrs. Walter's wasn't the only kind-hearted soul who made goodies for Halloween. We racked up on cookies, candy, home-made taffy, brownies and more. NO ONE bakes for Trick-or-Treaters anymore. The Mrs. Waletr's of the World don't want to be accused of putting needles and razor blades in their lemon bars.

Enough reminiscing. Back to our present day situation, I note that our neighborhood was once the hub of Halloween-night-activity, complete with houses pumping out candy and enough giant inflatable monsters and polyester spider webs to top off a landfill. As each year passes, more porch lights are extinguished and less candy hits the bottom of our orange plastic pumpkin buckets. It’s almost personal, like rejection in it’s ghostly form. Those darkened porches are sending out a message that whispers, “Grow up.” Not even the countless churches and their trunk-or-treats can replace the good old-fashioned feeling of door-to-door adventure on a night when you can be whoever you wanted to be.

Candy is dangerous and bad for you. Roaming the streets at night is dangerous and bad for you. Dressing up like Lady GaGa in her prison video is dangerous and bad for you…OK that one might be true. The kids and I haven’t lost hope. We’re ready for this year and we’re going all out. With our recycled earth-friendly treat bags in hand, we will set out for yet another adventure as we pillage this year’s crop of sugar-and-gluten-free candy and say hello to a dozen or so ballerinas, firemen and jaded, weary parents(my favorite costume) ready to call it a night. Talk about spooky….


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