Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween

Do I have to take her again?
Every child I knew in elementary school looked forward to Halloween, the first true holiday of the new school year. I didn't count Columbus Day. That day was just another lesson to learn. Yes, my classmates and I were expected at school, but no one I knew missed Halloween. A sense of anticipation filled the hallowed halls of education as students arrived in costume. No scary masks of course, but for one day everyone could become someone else, someone powerful, or scary, or wonderful. Oh! To be a princess for the class-to-class parade!

How much learning took place is anyone's guess when every student knew the room mother was bringing treats for the afternoon party. I remember a lot of cutting out of black triangles to paste as eyes, nose and mouth onto lopsided pumpkins drawn onto orange construction paper, but coloring mimeographed sheets of hissing black cats was my favorite activity. Boys made the scary noises their costumes demanded, and girls squealed in mock fright; add in cupcakes, cookies, corn candy, and oh my, what a fun time! In spite of everything I waited impatiently--hurry up clock, and ring your end of day bell!

A brisk autumn breeze usually made traipsing home in outlandish garb a exciting precursor to trick or treating. I had to keep a tight grip on the pumpkin and cat art created in class to give my mom. At home, I answered the summons to the door. "Trick or treat, give me something good to eat." The babies under five usually went trick or treating before dark, and a mom or dad waited on the sidewalk to walk them to the next house, otherwise they might get lost. Being allowed to go out with my big brother after dark meant I was big enough to face the night's specters--a sure sign I was nearly grown up. Jim, my big brother, was my guide, at turn stern and superior protector who filled me with warnings of what might happen if I didn't follow his advice to the letter, or prickly trickster telling woeful horrible tales of Halloween happenings to other unwary trick or treaters. Jim didn't do short stints of candy collecting. The more houses we hit, the better. We must have gone to at least a hundred!

Back home we emptied our pillowcases on the living room floor, comparing piles, eating the best offerings and giving mom or dad a few desired pieces. Jim's pile was inevitably larger. How did he do that? Where had he gone that I hadn't?

Later mom made us take baths to get the make-up off, but Jim's lipstick Indian war paint stained his skin the next day. Going to sleep seemed impossible, no matter how tired I was. I never dreamed of Christmas sugar plums, didn't even know what they were. But wow, Halloween candy? It kept me awake at night. Particularly because I knew tricky Jim might trade out his favorites from my candy collection for the yucky butterscotch taffy in his.

All in all, Jim added the spooky and special to my Halloween memories, which made both him and Halloween unforgettable. Thank God for irritating big brothers!

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