Meandering Monday about Three Lost Halloweens

For as long as I can remember, Halloween has been my favorite holiday.

My earliest scar is under my left eye – when I was somewhere under four years old, I fell on some cement steps while trick-or-treating. The cut wasn’t stitched – it was held together with a wooden clip to heal – I can feel it easily with my fingers, and it’s plainly visible, to this day. When I was in my late teens I started joking that it was a fencing scar (yes, I used to fence), but no – it was HALLOWEEN.

I didn’t care about gathering treats – I was more interested in the dressing up in costume and wandering the night as someone/something else. One year I made an Aragorn costume (probably when I was around fourteen – the first time I read The Lord of the Rings), although I made it all from old white sheets, and probably looked more like Gandalf the White with Glamdring.

Another year I remember dressing as Hogan’s Heroes style commandos with Dana and Charlie, and spending the night hiding and sneaking up on other trick-or-treaters. The only time we ever rang a doorbell that night was at a house we heard was only giving treats if you did a trick – and then it was like pulling teeth to get Dana and Charlie to sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat with me in a round (yes, the weirdness is strong in this one…)

As an adult, it was sad to see the holiday falling into obscurity – sure, some people still dressed up and went to parties, and there were still some kids going trick-or-treating, but the numbers dwindled, especially when more reports came out of sick people booby-trapping their treats – that in addition to the numerous stories about child abductions that made modern day parents afraid to let their kids wander around outside – especially at night.

One Halloween after MY SIGNIFICANT ONE and I married we wanted to give out treats, but no one would come to our apartment. Instead, we went out with a group of friends, all dressed as medieval/warrior/wizard sorts (we were pretty much a Dungeons and Dragons crowd at the time.) We walked through neighborhoods looking for children to give treats to, and even that was hard to do – we wound up looking for houses that had children’s decorations in their windows, and a couple of us would ring the bell and ask the parents if we could give treats to their children (who knows what those parents really thought of us and the other dozen strange figures standing off in the shadows…)

When we finally moved into a house, we decorated every year – there were very few in the neighborhoodIMG_1352 that did, so our lights and scarecrows really stood out, and we thankfully got lots of traffic. My Significant One didn’t like to scare the little ones, so we kept things pretty tame – smiling scarecrows, jack-o-lanterns, and ghosts about the yard, with giant “mommy” spiders all over the house. We gave out pony-bead spiders My Significant One made for adoption (“Do you know HOW MANY baby spiders that those mommy spiders have? We can’t possibly keep them all…”) We knew how many trick-or-treaters we had each year by the number of spiders given out – usually somewhere over 225.

We did this for a couple of decades. There were people who came to our house when they were children, and eventually brought their own kids with them – we became a tradition.

Our 2016 slab leak almost kept us away from the house that year, but we still managed. The 2019 slab leak DID keep us out – we had no decorations up, and weren’t going to be there, but then we were sitting in the hotel and checked our security cameras, and when we saw a little girl and her daddy standing patiently by the door of our house, we couldn’t stand it, so we drove to the house and sat out front, giving out those baby spiders. Despite that, it still felt like a lost holiday.

Then Covid hit. Aside from all the death that the Wuhan Virus has doled out, it’s also turned SOP upside down and inside out in all sorts of unforeseen ways, and mainly making us all feel lost in some alien world. And we still are.

Being older folks, it seemed foolish to have mobs of kids coming to our door, especially when vaccines were unavailable, so we didn’t decorate for 2020. I don’t remember if there were any trick-or-treaters wandering the neighborhood, but we didn’t participate.

This year we repeated last year. We’ve had the vaccines, but let’s face it, there are still a lot of unknowns about both those and the virus, so no decorations, and we left all the outside lights turned off for the night (we didn’t want to encourage people to come to our door.)

We’re planning to resume Halloween next year – hopefully, OUR tradition hasn’t been lost. We shall see.

I miss Halloween. Just saying…

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Reaching Out

William Mangieri’s writing has been published on Daily Science Fiction and The Arcanist. His ninety or so short stories and related collections can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:

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