Happy Halloween! Today is a day when spirits roam the earth in the form of little witches, ghosts and goblins running along sidewalks shouting trick or treat at every door.
I have fond memories of Halloween. The memories are so dear that Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I thought, in honor of the day, I would share a snippet of a story I am currently working on that entwines my memories of past Halloweens with my imagination. I hope you enjoy it!
The crisp October wind blew swirls of leaves through the gutters and in-between cars as children in gaily decorated costumes roamed the neighborhood. The acrid smell of crushed leaves and tantalizing scent of popcorn danced on the breeze, enticing people to partake of the festivities of the holiday.
Walking along the concrete path, dodging small ghosts and goblins, I remembered when Dawn and I used to be part of the spookies haunting the houses for candy.
Part kids and part teenagers, we were just getting to the age when it looked suspicious for us big kids to be out. This would be the last year we could get away with it and we worked it for all we could.
So much had changed in the old neighborhood. People who lived there back then no longer live there; houses looked old and worn from the harsh North Eastern winters and humid summers. Yet, on this night, with the jack o lanterns glowing bright and the autumn colored leaves falling from the large oak, maple and hickory trees that lined the old streets, the place didn’t look so bad. Flipping strands of long brown hair from my face, I smiled as I watched two young girls race up a stone path to an old gray house. I could almost picture Dawn, dressed as a cowboy, and me as a ghost, flying up the old gray steps to see what goodies we could get. Candy was always the best treat, but sometimes, pennies and dimes would be given. The dreaded treat was always the toothbrush. What were those people thinking?
As the girls came back down, talking excitedly and showing each other the contents of their treat bags, I knew they were discussing some unexpected treat they received.
The ghost girls of my friend and I ran ahead of me as I continued my way down the road. I could almost see the old Dodge that Dawn’s Aunt Norma used to drive, slowly following behind us, waiting for us to get tired of this street and moving on to the next one.
I walked the end of the block, reaching my own car, and drove to the Dairy Queen. The building was dark and boarded up. The outside lights had been smashed by rocks and glass covered a good deal of the parking lot. Carefully picking a spot, I pulled in the parking lot and turned off the motor. In my mind, the building was bright with florescent lighting. Employees in the old red and brown plaid uniforms with the funny little hats gave small ice cream cones to all the little ghouls that came in. Buckets and bags draped across arms, Halloween candy was temporarily forgotten as the cold, sticky dessert was quickly consumed. Painted faces sported ice cream mustaches and white drips down the chin. I could see us sitting in a booth with Norma, trying to contain the dripping cone as we told her all the fabulous things we saw and received.
After the flood of memories washed over me, I started the car, adjusting the heater as I drove away. Amazingly, I made it to a well maintained neighborhood that I had visited on occasion, but not really enough to be sure I knew how to get to. Parking across the street from the one story ranch home with the green trim, I remembered that our Halloween adventures always ended here.
The place was owned by Norma’s boyfriend, always known as Big Walt. He was a kind, gentle man with large glasses and an ugly station wagon. Norma and he would take us to dinner on occasion as well as trips to Massachusetts and his house for barbecues and other fun. His back yard was huge and sprawling, nothing like the yards of the houses in the neighborhood I lived in.
Every Halloween, like clockwork, after getting our candy and other goodies, Norma drove us to Big Walt’s house. After canvassing his neighborhood for those last few pieces of candy, we would settle in front of his console TV with a bowl of fruit and the bowl of candy he had been giving out. We would spend the rest of the evening sprawled on the living room floor with candy wrappers, fruit peels and soda cans stacked around us, watching reruns of badly acted horror movies until it was time to go home.
I could see through the big picture window into the house. Three young children, still in costume, gathered around a big screen TV, were playing video games while eating popcorn and drinking sodas. It was different but still the same.
Finally, I drove back to the old neighborhood and parked in front of my old house. It was a two-story house with peeling gray paint on the wood siding. The place looked abandoned; so did several other houses on this side of the street. The stairs to old number 32 were warped. The glass to the front door was missing and a piece of wood covered one of the three windows that belonged to what used to be my bedroom. I sat there for a few minutes, wondering if it would be safe to go in. Surely the man who owned the house was long gone, he was quite old when we lived there thirty years ago. Deciding to chance it, I carefully walked up the rickety steps and tried to look in through the grimy windows.
Memories of that night, thirty years ago, flooded my head as I stared into my old bedroom. The wonderful memories I had relived just a moment ago continued as I stared in at my old room. I remembered coming home that night, my stomach full of fruit, candy and cola. The sheet of my ghost costume was dirty from walking on it all night and the paint on my face was streaked and running. We ran into the house, chirping away about all the exciting sights we saw. And luck was with us, as Dawn’s grandmother and legal guardian agreed to allow her to spend the night, something that did not happen often.
My parents sat in the living room watching old Bewitched reruns. My mom sat in her small brown recliner, feet tucked beneath her and a light quilted throw over her knees. My dad, sprawled back in his large, dark brown recliner, snored like a buzz saw. After spending a few minutes talking to my mom and showing her some of our choicest goodies, we ran to my room, eager to shut the door, turn on the radio, and devour some of our newly gotten sweets. We poured our pillowcase sacks out onto the floor in two huge piles and began sorting our treats and swapping our not so favorites for our favorites. The music played softly so we wouldn’t get a parental warning, but we still danced and sang to our favorite pop songs.
We settled down to play card games when my mom knocked on the door and said she was going to bed and it was time for us to settle down and think of getting some sleep as well. Still hopped up on sugar and all the excitement, we changed into our pajamas, but decided to keep playing cards. It was a quiet activity, we told ourselves.
We kept the overhead light off and only had the small lamp on my bedside table on for light. It gave it a cozy feel in the room and with the music on even lower; it felt like we were the only two people in the world. Though well after midnight, we could still hear people laughing and talking as they walked up and down the street. We figured they were stragglers from parties, adults or older teens allowed to stay out way later than a couple of kids were. Or we figured they were older kids who were up to the regular Halloween pranks, toilet papering, trees, egging houses, and leaving bags of shaving cream on front door steps. Whatever they were doing, it didn’t concern us for we already had our night of fun.