Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Stop me if you've heard this one. I don't think I've talked about it before, but the older I get, the less sure I am that I'm not repeating myself.
When I was little, the family belonged to the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation. Neither of my parents attended -my mother because of her deafness, my father I think because the minister actually told us things we should do and my father was not a man who ever wanted to be told anything. (Well, that's my personal opinion, and he isn't here to defend himself, so I don't suppose I should express it. But I just did, didn't I?) My sister taught Sunday School. My brother was Crucifer in the procession every Sunday. I, of course, went to Sunday School. I loved Sunday School, chiefly because the teacher had a piano. It also meant that I got to attend the Halloween party every year. That was something special! It included a parade all around the hall, when everyone was judged for best costume, funniest costume, scariest costume, and on and on. I think just about everyone got a small prize for something. Then we played games and bobbed for apples, and stuffed our little faces with goodies. It was great! Mr. Spencer was the Superintendent. It was his job to judge and distribute the prizes and to keep the boys from pushing people's heads under water while we were doing the bobbing and from dropping fake spiders down people's necks.
Carving the Jack-o-Lantern was a very big deal. We'd spread newspaper, and Daddy would get the Big Knife, and after we'd decided what kind of face he should have, we'd draw it with pencil on the pumpkin. Then Daddy would do the carving. It was the one time he'd really get into the spirit of things. He liked Halloween. Once it was done, we'd roast the seeds.
The night before Halloween was Mischief Night. I don't remember hearing of any really bad mischief being done. For my part, my father took me to some neighbors' houses, where I threw dried corn against their windows and then hid to see them come out looking for whatever that noise could be. Once or twice I even went to the extent of ringing a doorbell and then running to hide to see the same result. The neighbors were very good about making a big show of being puzzled or upset about it.
Halloween itself was magic. I got to go out in the dark! We never had store bought costumes, but spent hours putting together something wonderful to wear. The only mask I ever wore was a little black one over my eyes. We were only allowed to go to homes on our block. Many of the houses had enclosed front porches, and the women would sit there with a table full of home made treats. Sometimes the popcorn balls and cookies and fudge would still be warm. The grown ups would always make a big fuss about trying to guess who it could be behind the mask. It was often wet out, and my mother would make me wear rubbers. One neighbor, Mr. Magee, would spoil it by saying, "Oh I know who that is. I can tell by her gum shoes." His wife would scold him for it. I didn't really mind. The Magees were such wonderful people - and they had such great treats! They had no children themselves, and always found ways for us to make money. They paid a nickle a jar for Japanese beetles if we collected them from their rose garden! And they would send us to the grocery store and pay us a nickle or a dime. - Anyway, by the time we got all the way up one side of the street and down the other on Halloween night, we would go home with a shopping bag full of wonderful things, and go to bed very, very happy.
Our current crop of kids will never know that kind of unsophisticated pleasure, will they? Sad. But I suppose each new generation of children will find their own particular pleasures. They won't miss what they never had. It is we who miss it for them. Isaac will certainly have a big Jack-o-Lantern, and I'm sure he and his friends will celebrate in their own way.