Recently I did a survey of kids between the ages of five and twelve, on their favorite holiday, and do you know what a whopping majority of them said? Halloween. That kind of surprised me. I figured it would be Columbus Day. Anyway, when I pressed for a reason, both kids (okay, so there were only two in my survey) gave me the same answer – "Costumes, Carnivals and Candy!”
Since it’s just a few days before Halloween, I thought I’d share with you my own childhood experiences with all three of the abovementioned items. But before I do, let me just go on record as saying I really don’t like this holiday – not only because I’m uncomfortable with its pagan undertones, but also because I think the decorations are seriously ugly. And on top of that, I hate the colors orange and black, especially together. Nevertheless, through the years I’ve managed to be a pretty good sport about the whole business.
Now, let’s take a look at those three C’s of Halloween, starting with costumes. The first time I dressed up for Halloween, I was a clown. Thanks to slides and home movies, the origin of this particular outfit can be traced to the kid next door. When he outgrew it, his mother gave it to us. My sister Jeri wore it for two years before passing it down to me, and after I was done with it my younger sister Marsha had a turn. Our black cat costume had a similar run. Finally when Mom ran out of hand-me-downs, she and she alone brought out the gypsy in us, and that’s what we were from then on.
Next came the carnivals. At our elementary school, every classroom was a "booth”, you know – a cake walk, a bottle toss, a General Store (more about that in a minute), a fortune teller, etc. Speaking of that last one, I have a vivid memory of entering a small dark, curtained, candle-lit booth where a woman swathed in scarves gazed into her crystal ball and proceeded to tell me everything about myself, including the names of my two hamsters! It totally freaked me out – until the teller’s familiar laugh tipped me off that she was my very own mother!
Finally, there’s the candy – the holy grail of Halloween. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the stuff. Never have been. Even as a kid I much preferred pork chops, but alas no one ever dropped one into my Trick-or-Treat bag. Consequently I gamely joined the throngs of ghosts and goblins that scampered about our neighborhood at twilight, eagerly ringing doorbells and accumulating ridiculous quantities of Red Hots, Tootsie Rolls, Milk Duds, Sweetarts, and Pixie Stix that, truth be told, I couldn’t care less about.
But before you start feeling sorry for me, let me remind you of what happens on the day after Halloween – when siblings the world over dump their respective caches onto the living room floor and in the spirit of pure, blessed capitalism, begin the bartering process – for that’s when my anti-candyism really paid off. Case in point, Marsha always approached the bargaining table encumbered by her own insatiable sweet tooth, whereas I, with my complete absence of personal desperation, had all the power and negotiating leverage of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Ergo, in exchange for a paltry handful of sticky Sugar Daddies I usually managed to come away with at least part of my sister’s allowance, not to mention her signed commitment to make my bed for the next three months!
So there you have it – my ghosts of Halloweens past. Oh wait, I forgot to tell you about the General Store. You see, at our Halloween carnival there was always one classroom booth where contestants walked on a bunch of numbered squares in a circle, and when the music stopped the person standing on the winning square got to choose one item from the shelves of the "General Store.” (Not surprisingly, there was never a line at this booth.) Anyway, as luck would have it, one year I won! So what was the grand prize I chose? Why, a can of New Potatoes of course!
Back at home later that night my Mother (aka the Fortune Teller) allowed each of my two sisters to consume ten pieces of candy from their Trick-or-Treat bags. Then she very sweetly heated up the can of New Potatoes for her little weirdo. It was, without a doubt, my best Halloween ever!
Kinda spooky… ain’t it?