When I was growing up I loved and looked forward to Halloween. My brothers and I and the forty or so kids who 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 while 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 goblin, 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.
Originally published November, 2006