Like most holidays, I was always more excited about the build up for Halloween than I was the actual celebration itself. When holidays came and went, I’d usually find myself feeling a bit of a letdown and almost somewhat depressed following.
Halloween itself was never really my favorite, and it became one I more or less stopped celebrating after I hit 7th grade – partially because I felt too old, but also because trick or treating fell out of favor in my community following some rather sketchy and scary activity in our area on Halloween night (like actual blood being painted on signs and houses, small animals found dead, stuff like that).
As a kid I didn’t like ghosts or ghouls or witches or zombies or vampires or skeletons… basically anything that was undead or creepy. I was easily scared and didn’t like the idea of intentionally frightening myself by watching horror movies or visiting haunted houses. I’ve never liked parties and skipped nearly every single one I was invited to as a kid. And the one time I went to an alternative ‘harvest celebration,’ I ended up being the kid who got the onion in the ever disgusting bobbing for apples game.
I’ve long since become the one neighbor who doesn’t turn on her porch light and hands out lectures about earning money to spend on candy while eating the bag of peanut butter cups herself.
I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the art of carving pumpkins, making decorations at school, and I generally took the matter of dressing up rather seriously: costumes needed to be warm, practical, and easy to get in and out of.
I had a few very well crafted, quality, hand-made costumes (like the pink Cheer Bear that every single person I encountered insisted was a bunny), that I’d enjoy wearing out and about and around the house until October 30th. Like most kids, I was rather typical in my decision to change my costume last-minute. This often meant buying the cheap plastic masks with corresponding cheap plastic aprons that was less a costume and more an advertisement for whatever character you were sporting, or some pre-packaged costume on clearance that my mom would bring home by the bag full each year. We amassed quite a collection over time.
By the time I was 10 or so, I started the process of choosing to wear multiple Halloween costumes per event – usually one sort of distinctive one I created myself, one cheap and boring one, and another that was mostly just one of those cheap plastic masks that hardly fit my older face paired with my dad’s black robe. I’d go to school dressed as one thing, spend the afternoon in another, and change again for trick or treating in the dark.. and again for round. I got so good at this that I would collaborate with friends to plan a route that would allow us to swap costumes and hit up the same houses at least three times. I only got caught once, and that was because my friend who went as Santa Claus refused to change her costume, and nobody forgot Santa Claus.
I always liked dress up and making costumes just for the fun of it with old clothes, spray paint and a glue gun. I enjoyed putting on sketches or planning my duds for the upcoming Halloween, and costuming became sort of a hobby in the long, boring, unstructured months of summer.
One year, though, while some friends and I were searching for who knows what in the garage, I took out the Halloween box and found a bunch of costumes I hadn’t even considered the year prior. So, despite the heat, a few of my friends and I tried on various ensembles and had a small Halloween party, including an old VHS of the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and Disney’s Halloween Treat. I even carved some potatoes, hearkening back to a section of some history of holidays book I had read during our class library time.
But why stop there?
Being rather charismatic and known for my grand and colorful shenanigans, I had no trouble in convincing the rest of the group that we should try our hands at Trick or Treating. So, that night as it started to get dark and more cars had pulled into the driveways after work, we set about the business of extorting treats from neighbors dressed in full costume.
We mostly got boxes of raisins, granola bars, and the occasional fruit snack. The single guy down the road gave me a pack of ramen noodles, and we got a couple of popsicle here and there, which was nice given that a few of the costumes were quite hot.
I don’t know that it would have been as successful if it had just been my own enterprise, but having four or five of us clearly dedicated to our cause meant that while we got a lot of questions or comments, nobody shamed us or told us to go away. As I look back, I think that may have been one of only two or three times we ever did Halloween on a day when it wasn’t pouring buckets of Oregon autumn rain.
And as it got dark and my friends went home with their plunder, I found myself with the same sort of melancholy that hit me after every big holiday… The fun was over. The latest stroke of brilliance had come to an end. Time for another long, lonely night.
To help ease my spinning mind, I put on music to help me sleep; a little jazz often went a long way:
The Vince Guaraldi Trio’s Charlie Brown Christmas.
After all, Christmas in July was just around the corner.