Rituals, Candy and Costumes Included

October 28, 2010 at 8:32 am 1 comment

The school Halloween party is today. Blue wig, slinky wedding dress, and sparkly heels are packed up and ready to go for Xi’s rendition of the Corpse Bride (the only costume she could think of that was both pretty and spooky – bless her heart.) Even little Echo is invited to attend the school shindig in her Cookie Monster assemble, so we were up at dark this morning so that her older sister could color in the chocolate chips on the cardboard cookie before she left for class.

As a kid I loved Halloween as it involved two things I love: ritual and candy. The ritual was to host a party at our home. My mom would make a giant batch of soup, clam chowder or chilli, and kids were charged with the task of eating a wedge of sourdough and a bowl of real food before trick-or-treating. From my current motherly vantage point I can see that couldn’t have been an easy task. In fact, even in my foggy child memory I think I can remember haggard parents sailing loaded spoons toward wily mouths to no avail. in the meantime, the rest of us already partially-fed children bounced around with plastic pumpkins in hand and badgered the dads about when we could leave.

It was always the dads’ job to escort us around our little neighborhood street. I liked that part. It was Halloween night after all and  if there were to be any ghouls, goblins, or pushy teenagers around I liked the idea of my strapping father in his white hoodie, curly early-eighties hair and glasses, hanging around. We marched up and down the street in our pack, a full harvest moon usually rising above us. In Santa Cruz it is always HOT on Halloween day, so that you can wear the prettiest, frilliest princess dress in the land if you are so inclined, but come nightfall another layer is usually required. So most of us were costumed from the waist down. A bit of pirate peeking out from a zip-up sweatshirt.

Emily and I, with an artist mom in our arsenal, never went for the run-of-the-mill costumes. No kitty cat for us. No princess. No fairy. We liked costumes with cardboard and paint, objects. A Pacman video game, a Rubik’s Cube, a bag of groceries. We’d wear these in the school Halloween parade, hoping our face-paint wouldn’t melt in the sun, never sitting down so as not to crush our cardboard frames. By the time night fell we’d be ready to wear something else, something less cumbersome, and my memory is filled with images of my sister doing magical prest-o change-os at the last-minute. Zorro! No… Michael Jackson!… No, …spaghetti and meatballs! That last one, wow. I wish I had a picture. She wore a full red outfit, draped a natural-colored hammock over top, and pasted on paper meatballs. I don’t know which costume she actually ended up wearing.

In any case, we’d tromp up and down our street and return with the bounty. We never ate while we walked, there was a rule that a parent must inspect each piece before eating, just in case sweet Mr. Sundemeyer down the way had slipped a razor blade into a Reeces. We’d sit on the oriental carpet, our mound of sugar before us, and wait, not patiently, for our dad to do his scrutinizing. It felt like forever before he arrived and looking back I can see that what was a candy/kid focused night for me was also a party for the grown-ups, and I’m sure my dad had some back-slapping and rabble rousing to do before making his way to my pile.

The rest of those nights is a sugar-tainted blur. I remember the soundtrack from Ghostbusters on the sound system and always my grandfather opening the door to pass out candy. I’d sneak shy peeks from behind his legs and die of embarrassment when as the evening wore on and the doorbell ringers grew older and less costumed, my grandpa would shout: Hey! Aren’t you a little old for this? I think I see facial hair on you there! He always gave them candy anyway but I was appalled.

Now as a grown-up with my own doorbell I wish he was alive and that I had him with me on Halloween night, especially when teenagers arrive, asking in a baritone, for me to give them a treat. I could use his kind frankness. And while I’m at it, while I’m picking my fantasy Halloween line-up, I’d select my mom too. A pot of her soup would be the very best pre-game nourishment. And my sister. She might, at this point, simply work her costume magic on my kids, but you never know, minutes before leaving she could conceivably whip up a doozy for herself. I’d choose my dad too. His hair is no longer curly and around these northern parts he’d need more than a white hoodie, but it sure would be nice to see him guarding our pack, directing them toward only the lighted, friendly porches, and sifting through their loot for booby-trapped sweets.

I’ll be thinking about them all. I will miss them. But I think we’ll do alright. I can make a mean Halloween soup, in fact I think last year I even made orange biscuits for dipping, and Nathan is more than papa enough to fend off unruly teenagers and goblins. We’ll shuffle through fall leaves and develop our own candy management system. We’ll love it and remember it and our kids will too.

New rituals with a bit of the old woven through.



Entry filed under: life lessons. Tags: , , , , .

Winter, You Lame-Ass Cold Thing Drowning In it

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. 6512 and growing  |  October 29, 2010 at 11:04 am

    haggard parents sailing loaded spoons! Yeah! Isn’t it funny to be on the other side now.

    And I must mention that I too grew up in a West Coast city (Berkeley), only to find my true home in the mountains, like you.

    Happy all of it,

    ps: loved your comment on my post about your 26 year old self, I don’t think you have anything to regret (okay, maybe the extra lovers…)


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