Makes Me Sigh

The Lonely Skeleton

When I was growing up, like all kids, I loved and looked forward to Halloween. My brothers and I and the forty or so kids that lived in the neighborhood would start talking about what we would be for Halloween shortly after school started in September.

The years that Halloween fell on a Saturday or Sunday, we would spend the entire day scavenging for and cobbling together a costume. The ghosts in our neighborhood wore sheets with paint splotches the color of their living room. No one had a “store boughten” costume. Unthinkable.

Long before the sun would set, four or five kids would crowd around the mirror in our tiny bathroom, elbowing for space. We painted our faces with left over craft paint, the gouged out remains of an old spot of blue or green eyeshadow or one of my mom’s old tubes of blood red lipstick. We’d rat up our hair and drench it in hairspray and practice scary faces holding up our hands Dracula-style.

Then, just as the sun began to set, 10 or 15 kids at a time would set off screaming down the street with brown grocery bags, going from house to house, descending like a horde of locusts hollering TRICKORTREATSMELLMYFEETGIVEMESOMETHINGGOODTOEAT! And hooboy! Wasn’t that funny?!

Amid the safety net of 20 kids, we’d roam a two-mile radius around the house for three or more hours. Our bags would be so full of candy we could hardly carry them and occasionally you’d see someone whose bag had broken, on their knees on the sidewalk, crying over their lost booty.

Last year, Antique Daddy took Sean out trick-or-treating in the neighborhood dressed as a cowboy. I stayed home and ate miniature Snickers waiting for the goblins to arrive at the door. Kids trickled up the sidewalk two and three at a time, escorted by their parents who were in the background hissing, “Say trick-or-treat! Say Happy Halloween! Say thank you! Did you say thank you!?”

Halloween seems so much more lonely an event these days, at least in my neighborhood. The singular Ariel or Ninja that comes to my door makes me nostalgic for the gangs of ghosts splattered with Sherwin William’s Burlap Beige and hobos wearing their dad’s work pants cinched up around their armpits.

As I stood at the door watching a tiny princess and her daddy make their way to the next house, a skeleton emerged out of the darkness and made his way up the steps. He was an apt skeleton weighing no more than a bucket of green beans. “Trick or treat!” he called to me cheerfully. I estimated him to be about 10-years-old. I looked beyond him into the darkness, but there was no one. I looked into the eyeholes of his mask at his bright brown eyes. I could tell he was smiling at me. I dropped a handful of candy into his bag. “Thank you ma’am!” he said looking me in the eye. Then he turned and started down the steps. “Wait a minute!” I called him back. “Here!” I said, dropping two more handfuls of candy into his bag. “Happy Halloween to you Mr. Skeleton!” “Wow! Thanks!” he called as he disappeared into the darkness. All alone.

I watched him until there was nothing but darkness beyond the bright porch light. I heaved a heavy sigh. Something about the slightness of his form, his cheer, his courtesy that made me think of my little cowboy, who will never be one of a roving gang of paint-splattered ghosts, but a polite, lonely skeleton. And that sort of makes me sad.

18 thoughts on “The Lonely Skeleton

  1. I remember the Halloween nights you described PERFECTLY. You are indeed correct Antique Mommy … Halloween just isn’t what it used to be and I’m sad, too, that my children will never experience it the way I did.

  2. It’s funny that you wrote about this because I was thinking the same thing on Halloween night. It’s sad that we live in a world that’s become too scary for gangs of hobos and princesses to roam the neighborhood.

  3. Well-said, as usual, AM.

    Our neighborhood was so barren of kids this year that I actually came in, took off my costume, and started putting away all my decorations. All the while I was silently crying to myself that Halloween is slowly dying.

  4. I live in a military neighborhood – thankfully we still have the roving gangs. I think I had about 60 kids. My son was thrilled (he gave out the candy).

    What I miss are the houses that gave out home-made cinnamon donuts and cider. Nobody lets you hand out home-made food anymore. That’s a shame.

  5. Well, if it makes you feel any better, our costumes were homemade this year and some people actually gave out apples in our neighborhood. And YES, I let the kids eat them.

    One thing that we did to make it more fun: We went around with a neighbor and talked with his father. It suddenly became a more intimate and memorable event than if it were just me and Mr. Right going around the neighborhood with our kids.

    It helped that we found the adult trick or treat street too…

  6. oh well, things change, and I mean it as a general comment because I never experienced Halloween because it’s a tradition that has been “imported” to my country in the last couple of years. Some things get better, but others, definitely not…and playing in the streets with friends, feeling safe, is one of those things that is becoming extinct.

  7. Ohmigosh. Reading that final paragraph brought tears to my eyes. I’m not sure if it’s for the same reason, but I feel like my little man is always going to be a lonely little guy too. He’s such an introvert already at 2.75yrs old. I worry a LOT about the loneliness he might suffer when he’s older.

  8. You’re right. Life is different for our kids. Good things are lost and it’s sad.
    We don’t participate in our neighborhood trick-or-treat anymore. We’re already not so thrilled about the emphases around Halloween, but were still open to contributing to the candy/costume extravaganza for neighborhood kids,which is still some fun even for lonely skeletons. Well,in reality, not only don’t we know most of the kids who live in our neighborhood (everyone’s in day care, school or programmed activities it seems), but we are also one of those “destination” neighborhoods because it’s one of the few flat areas around, with houses extremely close together. As trick or treat hours approach, the streets and nearby shopping center parking lot get jam packed with complete strangers, many of whom then go door to door thrusting bags out for candy without even looking at or speaking to you, even as you try to engage them. And plenty of teenagers who do this without even dressing up… Oh, I really do not like to be a bah-humbugger, but, no thanks!

  9. Call me a scrooge, but the churches are the ones making Halloween such a quiet event. It isn’t enough to Trick or Treat anymore, it must be a BIG BIG party with inflatables and pony rides and blah blah blah. Supposedly Halloween is not “safe” anymore (the poisoned candy threat from the 70’s still looms large I suppose ?). To heck with that we said this year and we called one of DD’s friends and they roamed the neighborhood together and had a blast.

  10. My mom always made my costumes….and we ran without parents from house to house in my day…it was safe…and no one drove up and down roads….today….we go to church for the safety aspect…..great post.

  11. My grandma used to give out little baggie fulls of loose change because my grandpa never used change (he had $700 worth of pennies in the china cabinet when he died).

    I think what has happened is we’ve become an independent sort of society. We are loners, even when we have friends. We have lost the value of interedependence being much stronger than independence every could be.

  12. Uhhhh, am I the only one that thought you were referring to your little fella being an only child and not so much the lack of large groups of trick or treaters?

  13. You all should come and spend Halloween at my house. We gave out more than 450 pieces of candy this year. That is typical for us. We live one block from a very big city – Chicago – which means lots and lots of trick or treaters! Lots of homemade costumes.

    At one point I stood on our porch for 5 minutes straight handing out candy. Too bad it was a little cold or we would have had even more kids! Halloween is still alive.

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