It’s hard to admit to having grown up. Peter Pan not withstanding, we all lurch forward every day, imperceptibly changing. One minute we are children, excitedly anticipating Halloween and our costumes, and roving the neighborhood at night in bands of fellow kids, collecting candy, sharing intelligence on what to expect from that big house on the corner, the one with all the decorations. And the next minute, we are standing in the grocery store, weighing the merits of various candies, trying to figure out what to buy. Snickers or Milky Ways? Poof!
Post trick-or-treating I remember sitting on my bedroom floor with my sophisticated older brother, discussing the merits of the candy we had amassed. We organized our stacks of tiny M&M boxes, miniature Mr. Goodbars, mini Junior Mints, wee Dots, singleton Tootsie Pops and precious, diminutive Milky Ways. Sometimes there were cellophane packaged wax teeth, or candy necklaces. And it being the Good Olde Days, handfuls of loose candy corn and apples. He could go farther afield in the neighborhood, since he moved fast and had three more years of Halloween experience than I did. His pile was always bigger.
When my children were growing up our street was shunned by the merry bands of children. We lacked the joie de vivre and the Halloween spirit of a neighborhood a few blocks away, where there was quality, full-sized candy to be had, and a couple of over-the-top haunted houses. One of the houses, where Scary Mary lived, had enormous gargoyles sitting on its stone wall, year ’round. Halloween was Scary Mary’s favorite holiday. I don’t think there were children in that house, which made her enthusiasm for All Hallow’s Eve a bit puzzling.
Our Halloween decorations were humble: about-to-rot kid-carved jack-o-lanterns, a few lighted plastic pumpkins, flamingo skeletons, and sometimes little white fabric ghosts dangling and twirling in the trees in the front yard. Scary Mary not only had the giant cement gargoyles, the tall gothic house, and lighted, animatronic skeletons on the widow’s walk, but also organ music, dry ice mist, goblins opening her creaky front door, scary lights and loud chain saw recordings playing as the children stumbled inside to thrust their hands in bowls of spaghetti guts and squishy eyeballs. Terrorized children shrieked with terror and pure enjoyment, while the adults stood watching in the street, pulling the red wagons that would whisk overly-exhausted children home. There was no competing with Scary Mary.
There must be a Scary Mary quota for every community. In my next-door neighbor’s front yard there is a 10-foot tall skeleton posing with a large, winged dragon skeleton, with a display of half a dozen life-sized skeletons shimmying up a rope of colored lights to the top of the chimney. There are several garish neon-colored, lighted plastic pumpkins. Another neighbor has a melon garden in her front yard, and she has painted the melons orange, to look like a pumpkin patch. You couldn’t pay me enough to go ring those doorbells, but I bet there will be kids galore who do.
When I was little I remember fretting that it might be cold enough to have to wear a coat over my homemade costume. (It is hard to look like a splendid, glittering fairy if your wings are covered up with a winter coat.) In Florida we had to worry if it was going to be too hot, and that the chocolate candy would melt. This year there is a 60% chance of rain on Monday. I hope it is a perfect, cool and exciting evening. Our street has few children, and the past COVID-affected years have brought just a couple of straggling trick-or-treaters to our front door. I have hauled out the flamingo skeletons, and the lighted pumpkins. I will try to enjoy the night as a grown-up, burnishing my neighborhood reputation by passing out full-size candy bars. I hope it doesn’t rain.
“Halloween shadows played upon the walls of the houses. In the sky the Halloween moon raced in and out of the clouds. The Halloween wind was blowing, not a blasting of wind but a right-sized swelling, falling, and gushing of wind. It was a lovely and exciting night, exactly the kind of night Halloween should be.”
― Eleanor Estes
And should not enough children visit your haunted house, here are ideas for what to do with the leftover candy: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/article/what-to-do-with-leftover-halloween-candy
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