I went Halloweening as a kid. It was impressive, being I was raised by my Grandparents and lived in the middle of nowhere, aka the prairies of the Great Frozen Northland, aka Canada.
The first rule of thumb was that our costumes had to be “tasteful.” I know that those of you who know me completely understand the kind of box that put me in. I am just lucky that I escaped my childhood not having been completely stunted in my magically impressive repertoire of hysterically funny, probably inappropriate, social commentary. How I ended making it out the other end of my childhood alive, considering those kind of restrictions, is beyond me. I clearly had a special angel intervening with some kind of Teflon shield.
So that left us with limited options for costumes. We were told to “be a ghost or an angel,” both of them requiring basically the same costume, defined only by the visual presence of a tinseled head or not. Of course we were only allowed a sheet providing we used an older, pristine white one (something about airing our dirty laundy no-no’s). We were also allowed to be some type of cute little animal from the stunted list of those contained in the cute blurred pictures of the Ideals Magazine – a kitty or a bunny. I think they went wild one year and allowed my brother to be a pirate and me a beautiful woman. Which meant my brother wore an eyepatch and carried a stuffed chicken on his shoulder that he painted green, and I got to wear make-up and put a skirt on my head to pretend it was long hair.
We weren’t allowed to be witches or devils or fairies or saloon girls or cowboys. They were both aiming for a higher rung on the social ladder and one devoid of satanic overtones because back then everyone was big into pretending they were the good guys. Whole communities pretended together. Life was pretending. Part of our upbringing was learning to hold butter in our mouths with nary a melted drop on chin or chest.
We took our costumes to school and everyone brought homemade treats for a party in the afternoon. “Party” was just a euphemism for no schoolwork and a contained number of students locked in a room with their drug of choice … which was sugar. We got to drink pop, eat all the goodies our moms had sent, clearly years before Pinterest. Only a couple of the moms even tried to differentiate the cookies and cupcakes from their normal, ladies church meeting/Christmas/funeral fare. I think some of them even said “RIP Uncle Wilbur” in sprinkles. A few of them had quilt stuffing stuck in the frosting.
At some point the signal was given, we all got dressed and we got to parade around the desks of each classroom. There, we were pointed at and laughed at and judged. It was a cool break from our usual routine around the other kids at school, out on the playground, where we were pointed at and laughed at and judged, without any costumes. Costumes make everything better, always.
Then the party began and the winners of the costumes were announced and believe me, it was never a ghost, an angel, a kitty, or a bunny. Which pretty much eliminated 98.3% of the school whose parents were part of the pretending majority. We were all pretty bitter because when you are a kid you do spend a lot of your time bordering on insanity. You know, doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different outcome? Each year, we actually held hands and waited breathlessly for the announcement of the winner, sure we would win.
Looking back, I have big regrets over air I missed out on holding my breath like that. They are just lucky none of us died.
The buses would eventually pull up to take us home and the teachers always let us go early for some reason. They insisted on it. It allowed us extra time to work up a frenzy. A sugar high, having been contained within the normal sized school room, suddenly sandwiched into a smaller space with other kids who were mostly older and meaner and also on drugs, both sugar and other. You take that combination in that small small space all sealed up, the heater blasting hot air through the bus and shake it up realllllly good by speeding over gravel roads over all those humps and bumps and road kill … presto … lots of throwing up.
You learned to roll with it. Throwing up = more room for more candy. We were Halloween Bulimics sans the ABC Afternoon School Special about our lives.
At home, providing we were not snowed in, we were allowed to go out Trick or Treating as soon as it got to be dusk. It was magical. We would set out with our pillowcases and wander the wheat fields with our compasses, praying for a clear night so the stars could guide us. Sometimes we would actually make it to the nearest neighbour’s house. Most times we would just fall asleep in the fields having never reached our destination, exhausted and cold. We would wake up and cry a bit and step over all the tipped over cows (the trick portion of the city kids Halloween) and make our way home completely disillusioned about life and our empty pillow cases. Our grandparents would try to cheer us up telling us things like, “candy isn’t everything” and “you may not have gotten any candy but you had a real experience with your brother, and that is priceless, something you will remember all of your life, long after any candy could be eaten.” And then make us wash our sheets and pillow cases and put them away for another year and they would give us an extra helping of oatmeal for breakfast. They would even put left over cookies in our lunch buckets from the ones they sent with us to school for the party. We usually used them to huck out the windows of the school bus at gophers, other kids, and tractors. There were a lot of cookies left over. There are a lot of dead gophers, dented tractors and brain damaged farmers out on the prairies because of us taking out our disappointment on the world around us.
We never spoke about our abysmal Halloweens. It was just too painful.
How do you ever heal from something like that?
It is probably one of the reasons why, as an adult, I dressed the kids up to the nines, no expense spared, gave them a dozen pillow cases and drove them to the richest parts of the city where they Trick or Treated until the cows were all tipped in the country and could not go home. Hubby and I would pretend to go through their stash to make sure the candy was safe and we would give them their revised pillow cases full of candy the next morning, and NEVER let them see the ones under our bed with all the best stuff.
Sometimes it is important to go back and reclaim your lost childhood like that when you are an adult. It was therapy without that boring guy behind a desk looking at you while you lay on his couch making stuff up so he won’t look so disappointed. There we were, just high fiving one another in the darkness, after the kids are in bed, mouths stuffed with candy kisses and unable to even talk.