Halloween conjures visions of jack-o-lanterns, costumes, and candy! Children’s voices chiming “TRICK OR TREAT!” never fails to make me smile!
Mom or dad would bring home a big orange pumpkin and we’d decide if we wanted a smiling face or a scary one – usually I wanted a smile. I remember spreading newspapers out on the front steps so we wouldn’t make a mess, then daddy would start carving the face in the pumpkin with a big knife. Mama would affix a candle to an old mayonnaise jar lid so it would stand level inside the jack-o-lantern. I loved lighting the candle to bring our jack-o-lantern to life – and the smell of the candle scorching the inside of the pumpkin still makes the magic of the season seem real.
I am fairly certain that my first Halloween costume was a ghost. I recall my mom tossing a big white sheet over my head, then letting it settle around my feet. She cautioned me to stand still while she took a crayon and marked where to cut the eyes. The 1960 edition of me had a tough time standing still, believe me! But I am sure that I was the scariest ghost in Peachland!
Over the years, my costumes changed. I really don’t remember all of them, but each one was homemade. I was a witch one year, sporting a red wig and black dress. As a teenager, I recycled an old black suit that my Uncle Buck threw out, and turned it into a hobo costume. Through the years, my sister and I took turns wearing the suit, and each time we’d add more to it. We attached brightly colored fabric patches here and there, either by sewing or with huge diaper pins. I added a pair of navy and orange striped socks, Becky stuck a huge silk flower on the lapel as a boutonniere. (I find myself wondering if Becky’s kids still use the hobo costume!)
Living out in the country meant that we got very few trick-or-treaters at our house. It also meant that Daddy put us in the car and drove us around to go trick-or-treating ourselves. One year at my Aunt Georgia’s house, my cousins Kitty and Dailey met us in the yard with paper plates full of candies and Uncle Jack said we could take all we could get off the plate. Try as we might, though, we couldn’t pick up ANY of the candies – what a trick!! They’d all been glued to the plates!!! Eventually Aunt Georgia gave us some treats and we all got a big laugh out of it.
Another neighbor’s older son Tommy rigged up a microphone in the bushes by their front door. He sat in an upstairs room where he could look out the window and see us, and called out our names in a spooky voice as we walked up the sidewalk! My sister Becky was very small, probably pre-school age, and she talked back to the voice in the bush – nothing scared her, that’s for sure!
Oh, the candy we’d bring home! Of course there were candy bars and lollipops, usually an apple, sometimes some gum. But my favorite had to be my Grandma Belle’s homemade popcorn balls! She heated oil in the bottom of a heavy pressure cooker, then added the kernels and put the lid on. Once the first *POP* started, she’d shake the pan over the burner so the corn wouldn’t scorch. When all the kernels were fluffy and white, she added a syrupy concoction and formed fist-sized balls of candy-coated popcorn. To my knowledge she didn’t use a recipe, and none of us are sure exactly what she put in them, other than molasses. On Halloween, the popcorn balls would be wrapped in wax paper. She continued making them every autumn until she was about 90 years old. Man, what I would give to have one of those tasty treats today!
So as another October 31 rolls around, and I will light a candle in a smiling jack-o-lantern. I’ll watch out for little ghosts, clowns, ballerinas, and lions. And when I get a few minutes, I’ll close my eyes and pretend I’m once again 4 years old, wearing a scary sheet, and munching a molasses-covered popcorn ball…