Porcelain, cardboard, tin, and plastic Jack o’ lanterns grin from a ledge in the laundry room. I moved them to the basement the morning after Halloween along with candy corn lights and a gauzy witch that cackles when someone walks past. Here’s my sad secret, Halloween is nowhere near my favorite holiday. I find it kind of scary for other reasons.
In Luxemburg, WI there was no trick or treating. We wore our costumes to school and at night a parade happened on Main Street. Candy and substantial treats were thrown from the town’s firetrucks. Many of the town’s 400 or so residents, including many who drove in from their farms, stood on the sidewalk to collect the goodies. Then everyone joined the parade for about a six block walk to where a bonfire burned at the fairgrounds. Adults and kids partied and danced way after a school night’s normal bedtime.
When we moved to Milwaukee my mother declared her children were not going to ring strangers’ doorbells to beg for candy. She called the city’s Halloween traditions dangerous. And she wasn’t going to encourage others to ring our doorbell. So instead of a parade or walking the neighborhood with other kids, our parents took us to a shopping mall for the special treat of dinner out. If stores offered a treat bag, we were allowed to accept.
My brother managed to weasel out of the family outing after a couple of years. He claimed he was going to help a friend distribute candy so the parents could walk with younger siblings. I snuck out one year with a girlfriend whose mother called to invite me to a sleepover party. It was a ruse because they felt so bad that I had not experienced the joy of running around in the dark with a pillowcase to collect candy.
Only I didn’t really find it all that fun. I heard my mother’s disgust with kids begging for candy and caution about the city’s danger. I was kind of afraid of scary costumes and decorations. I worried my parents would drive around the neighborhood and recognize a cheerleader wearing white tennis shoes as their daughter. By high school Halloween parties frequently included booze or pot which weren’t my thing.
Fortunately, I was great at disguising my fear of Halloween from our children who adored the holiday. A granddaughter’s enthusiastic participation in anything connected to Halloween is awesome. I still decorate and usually keep a treat bowl filled, but I’m more comfortable spending Halloween in the basement reading a book.