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Halloween Memories

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Every year around this time, I begin to reminisce about the holidays and how much fun it was. For me as a kid it was great, but coming from a family of thirteen children, you can imagine the hectic days my mother went through from around mid-October to January when school started up again.

I can’t recall my mother ever buying a Halloween costume for anyone. Ever. There were always boxes in the basement that my mother had labeled … Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, FRAGILEDON’T TOUCH. (I think that’s where she used to hide some of the Christmas presents she bought.) In the box labeled Halloween there were old clothes that Mom probably thought would be good to use for Halloween. I remember a few overalls, some hats, an old fur stole, some of Grama’s old dresses, and an old, plastic Roman helmet. Occasionally, in the bags of clothes that we often got from neighbors, there would be a witches dress, or a clown costume or the really weird shirt that was appropriately put into the Halloween box. Mostly though, we would just use what we had around the house.

The most important thing about Halloween however, was the parade. Our next-door neighbor, Mary, was a crossing guard with no children of her own. All of the neighborhood kids were important to her. And since she made sure we all crossed Broadway safely on our way to school, she also made sure the Halloween Parade was a success. She had connections with the local police precinct that closed off the street the Saturday closest to Halloween. No fewer than fifty children came dressed in their costumes as well as their parents.

I don’t really remember many of the adult costumes except for those of my father. No one, not even Mom would know what Dad would be until he walked out of the driveway in his costume. The most memorable was the time he strolled down the alleyway with his overalls done up in such a way that they made his large belly even larger and a mop on his head, his face painted like a clown. I think that was the year he won the best costume award.

The first order of the parade was to line up in front of Mary’s and walk around the block parading for the old women who couldn’t make it off their stoops. Of course Mary was the judge and in between her scotches on the rocks she watched as everyone smiled and waved trying to impress her. After everyone came back around she would announce the winner and the fanfare of the awards ceremony would soon turn to the fun and games which included bobbing for apples with coins stuck in them and sampling the snacks and treats that the mothers had prepared. Us kids would play tag and eventually make our way over to Mary’s stoop to have our picture taken by her husband, Walter. Walter had a darkroom in his basement and developed the pictures himself. They were classic pictures. Somewhere dad has a few of them still.

They day turned into night and as the cool of late the October night chilled us, Mom would have soup and grilled cheese sandwiches waiting for us when we finally were called in for dinner. We would make sure that the costumes we had were safe until the real day of Halloween came. On that day we would spend all afternoon going from door to door where every house opened their door and generously gave candy to all who knocked. I always went with my brothers and friends.

We had to be back home before 7 p.m. and when we got home we unwillingly turned over our stash to Mom who dumped the pillowcases onto the dining room table where she diligently sorted the candy. Chocolate, lollipops, gum, Mary Janes, Bit-O-Honeys, and caramels and the uncategorizable. I think our candy lasted well into our January lunch bags. The anticipation of Thanksgiving and Christmas would begin in our dreams that night …  

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