Monday, October 29, 2007

Haunting Memories


It’s been years since a ghostie or goblin or even a Power Ranger has darkened my doorstep; longer still since I’ve been one myself. But night falls earlier now, and a chilly wind is blowing. It’s almost time for the spirits to be abroad.

I remember only one Halloween night that every child on my street did not meet after supper to begin our siege of the neighborhood. Usually we planned our costumes for weeks before the 31st, discussing the disguising properties of masks over face paint, homemade outfits cobbled together from whatever we had or could pilfer from our parents’ closets versus store bought costumes we’d have to talk them into buying. But this one particular year, the year I was eight, a town party was planned, and we were all expected to attend.

When a ritual is interrupted, something changes. In previous years the matter of my costume was left up to me. This year, because of the party, and because the party had a theme, I was forced to narrow my choices. Children were obligated to dress as a book character.

When my mother told me this, my first thought was to be a pirate, a la the mustachioed, swashbuckling Captain Hook from Peter Pan. I was practicing my “Ahoy, Matey!” and swinging an imaginary sword over my head with gusto when she dropped the other shoe. I had to be a girl from a story.

There is nothing worse than having to be what you already are on Halloween. The one night I could be anybody or anything I had the imagination to disguise myself as lost all its magic. That settled it. I wasn’t going to any adult-planned Halloween party. I would go trick or treating by myself. I would be a lone hobo, face blackened with a burned cork, a mop on my head for hair, one of my father’s shirts buttoned over my own.

“Who are you going to get candy from?” my brother asked. “Nobody will be home.”

I hadn’t thought of that. Bad enough to have to tromp the street in the scary dark all alone. Worse still to do it for nothing.

The night of the party, my brother appeared as Captain Hook. He wore a black patch strung over one eye, a tri-cornered cardboard hat, and a large metal hook screwed cleverly into a cork projecting from one sleeve. I was in one of my school dresses, complete with white tights and my Sunday shoes. The only concessions to costuming were the two bright circles of pink painted on my cheeks and a braided wig of yellow yarn on my head. Alice in Wonderland had never looked so forlorn, I’m sure.

That may have not been the last town party, but it was the last one we ever attended. The next Halloween saw half a dozen ghosts, hoboes, and zombies (and one swashbuckling pirate) armed with paper sacks, knocking once again on neighborhood doors.

Prompted by this week's Writers Island suggestion of "haunted."

17 comments:

Little Wing said...

Such beautiful writings....
I am in awe......

Jo said...

A great write......there's nothing worse than grown-ups organising!

paisley said...

if it is not broke.. why attempt to fix it... i am glad things reverted to the normal custom,, but saddened th fun had gone out...

keith hillman said...

Once again a marvelous read. I really felt I was there.

HungryGhost said...

Poor Alice! Nice work. I sometimes feel sorry for children now, especially in large cities - the whole trick-or-treat tradition seems to be lost.

meggie said...

We never had Halloween in New Zealand. Our traditional remembrance was for Guy Fawkes, who intended to blow up English Parliament. It was 5th of November, & was celebrated with fireworks. Finally it was stopped because of the danger of the fireworks. I am sure a lot of pets were so grateful- & more than a few small children!
Nice story, I felt very sorry for you!

Marja said...

I really enjoyed reading this. I could taste the atmosphere and see the little disappoited girl with 2 circles on her cheeks. Thanks

paris parfait said...

I like the journey from tradition to trying something new and back to tradition. An enjoyable piece!

Karina said...

Ah, the magic of Halloween and trick or treating. I'm saddened every year because I get no trick-or-treaters at my door...I miss the hordes of kids I grew up watching (and being a part of) on the night...sigh...

jillypoet said...

You tell a great tale. I, too, would've been crushed to be told what to be, and to have trick-or-treating taken away. Egads! Your story makes me think, I would love to read an entire anthology on people's halloween memories.

tumblewords said...

Awesome writing. I love the story that you tell so very, very well!

Roberta S said...

Pauline, there are town parties here, but none of the neighbor kids go. They just roam around the few houses in the neighborhood. Doesn't take many stops to fill a pillow case with treats.

That was a beautiful story and I laughed at the things that made Alice so forlorn. Perfect title, as well. Obviously you weren't a rebel child or you would insisted on going as a pirate and your brother as Alice.

Rambler said...

You made me want to be Captain hook..
nice writings.

gautami tripathy said...

I felt in the midst of it...

b said...

Pauline,

I read your blog regularly. Thank you for the comment on my story.

Your is always the first blog I go to when the new writer's island prompts come up. The story of the costume that turned out to be who you are everyday of the year was so poignant. One night of the year every child should be allowed to be someone they are not...and their brother should not steal their thunder!!!

b

Mother of Invention said...

LOng live tradition as it should be! I loved dressing up ang going out with my dad who also dressed up!

AnnieElf said...

What a terrific memory and in such detail. I love the idea of a girl as Captain Hook. Sorry for this very delayed comment. Work overwhelmed me this week and the home computer went on the fritz. All fixed now and so glad it is so I didn't miss this.