My mother loved Halloween. I remember one year, when I was in high school, I threw a Halloween party at my house. My mother went crazy with party games, food, and decorations. Using black embroidery thread, my father wove a spider’s web that covered an entire corner of the room. In a plastic cauldron behind the web, my mother poured water over dry ice to make an eerie fog. It was a big hit with my friends. We trick-or-treated every year, of course. My younger brother and I sometimes dressed in matching costumes, like these hobos from the 1970’s.
Love of Halloween must be genetic because my older son, too, loves this holiday. When he was in high school and college, his costumes were very elaborate. In his senior year of high school, he went as a devil with prosthetics and red makeup altering his face. He excels at costume
details and theatre makeup. Other memorable costumes included the Joker, Leatherface, and Hagrid. This year he is pulling together a super detailed movie-accurate Ghostbusters costume.
On the other hand, Halloween has never been my favorite holiday. If I had to dress up for work, I went as a cowboy or a motorcycle rider, donning boots and hat or boots and leather jacket that I already had. The elevated thrill that ran through my class on Halloween made instruction impossible. The Halloween parade, loved by the younger students, was more difficult in sixth grade. The students always wanted to wear costumes inappropriate for school, with weapons, bloody makeup, or masks they couldn’t see through.
As a mother, though, I always celebrated the holiday with my sons. We decorated the house, carved jack o’lanterns, and went trick-or-treating. When the boys were small, we went every year to the pumpkin patch in our neighborhood. It was at one of the last remaining orchards in San Jose, where the family had a small store, too. I remember buying cherry cider there, and chocolate dipped dried apricots. At Halloween, they went all out with decorations in the pumpkin patch, long before these patches had big slides or haunted houses. Our pumpkin patch had an Indian teepee, a closet with a skeleton, and ghosts hanging in the trees.
As my sons got older, we made an annual trip to the Spirit Store, a tradition my older son, now an adult, still observes. His concern this year is how to mask up and visit the store in a COVID-safe way. The mask he wants to wear is not a COVID mask!
Another tradition is Monster Munch. A snack that includes chocolate, pretzels, marshmallows, and M&M’s can’t go wrong. For years, my sons’ friends have looked forward to him bringing a big bowl of it to parties.
When my older son was in sixth grade, he wanted to have a Halloween party. He wasn’t in my class that year, but a lot of his friends were. I assured him that they wouldn’t be going to their teacher’s house for a party, they’d be going to their friend’s house. Party decorations were fun. The school grading period ended just before Halloween, so I filled out report cards with the names of my students who were coming to the party. I put big red F’s for every subject. What could be more scary, right? None of the kids thought it was very funny. I did. I laughed my head off. I still laugh about it.
So even though it’s not my favorite holiday, I look back on past Halloweens with fondness. This Halloween, Blinky (a light-up giant plastic pumpkin) is in my window where he always is, and ghosts hang from my porch. Trick-or-treat may have been cancelled this year due to COVID, but Halloween can still be celebrated. Now to make some Monster Munch.
Linda Ulleseit writes award-winning heritage fiction set in the United States. She is a member of Historical Novel Society, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and Women Writing the West as well as a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. Get in touch with her on Instagram (lulleseit) and Facebook (Linda Ulleseit or SHINE with Paper Lantern Writers).