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Halloween used to be my favorite holiday. My mom really got into it.
She was a frustrated drama queen stuck in an island of conservative adults. Halloween was her excuse to dress up and vamp for the kids. I will never forget the look on classmates’ faces as she flung the door open with a hearty guffaw and a huge knife glinting in her left hand, a patch on one eye, baggy pants, funny slippers, and a broad paisley bandana wrapped around her head. “Eyeeee, me matees, whatcha want?” she growled with a red light bulb backlighting the darkened hallway. The brave kids stood their ground and waited for the candy. The littler tykes inched to the back of the pack.
What’s not to like about Halloween? Once I was deemed old enough to participate, I, too, basked in the freedom of Halloween. A cornucopia of free candy that would otherwise never cross the threshold of our door. The yearly opportunity to hide a disgusting face behind an acceptable mask or paint. A giggly, late night out with other outrageously attired kids. And no religious overtones to confuse the greed of the night.
Later, after I left the nest, I made elaborately decorated sugar cookies and popcorn balls for the trick or treaters,— until the razor blade freaks of the world destroyed the sanctity of that delicious tradition. Even later on, when I lived in a brand new subdivision populated with tons of wealthyish kids, my husband and I elaborately decorated the house and the porch, devising sound effects, smoke, and any number of creative creepy-crawly effects. We worked as a team, me peeking out the window to monitor the traffic, he behind the scenes running the gadgetry. Occasionally a parent would step to the door with an empty glass, ready for an over-21 treat. It was great fun.
Now, though, Halloween seems lifeless. The creativity of homemade costumes and ingenious spook devices has been usurped by an industry that pumps out gargantuan, air-filled, puff balls that are supposed to look scary. Some neighborhoods push the Christmas decoration rush by one-upping each other in a practice session of Halloween lighting. Another huge industry services the costume-in-a-bag phenomenon. And the candy industry has an excuse to rape the pocketbooks of the suckers who still prepare for an onslaught of kids. Safety concerns have removed trick or treaters from the streets and gathered them in semi-private church and school parties where fun is sanitized and danger is manufactured.
Bah-humbug. This year I’ll resist the urge to buy that one bag of candy in the ridiculous hope of giving it away before I’ve gobbled it all by myself. I’ll turn off the lights and retreat to the bedroom with my friend, Edgar Allan Poe.