A child in every one

Halloween 1986, the first of many that Matt and Drew enjoyed together.

Halloween 1986, the first of many that Matt and Drew enjoyed together.

Backward, turn backward,
O Time, in your flight
make me a child again
just for to-night!

~ Elizabeth Akers Allen

There is a child in every one of us who is still a trick-or-treater looking for a brightly-lit front porch.Robert Brault

Perhaps no holiday brings back more childhood memories than Halloween.  The festivities of November and December belong to people of all ages, but Halloween seems created for those who are still young enough to be excited about candy, uninhibited about parading around in costumes, and energetic enough to visit door after door in quest of just one more treat.

If you’re my age or older, you probably remember a time when candy was a relatively rare privilege, which made the prospect of Halloween goodies all the more magical.  That exciting trip to get the pumpkin(s) for carving, the fun of spending time with adults who participated in the merriment by creating jack-o-lanterns and other faintly frightful decorations, and the enjoyment of themed activities at school (perhaps with a reading of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) all combined to build the suspense until October 31.

The crisp autumn air was a perfect setting for the anticipation of choosing “what to be this year” and then creating a costume to wear on the big night.  (Store bought costumes were scorned by us, as they may have been by many of you.)  What could surpass the sheer delight of dressing up as darkness fell, then seeing creativity on parade in the costumes of friends as we ran from house to house, sometimes greeted by enthusiastic parents dressed in costumes of their own for handing out treats.  The fiery grin of a jack-o-lantern would welcome us at almost every door.

On returning home to dump the contents of our bags or pillowcases onto the floor, sorting and trading and eating until past bedtime, we would critique the evening.  Whose costumes were best? Most creative? Scariest?  Who carved the best pumpkin?  Then when bedtime finally came, the regret of knowing one more Halloween had passed was tempered by the candy stash, which would last for weeks, and the knowledge that the grandest festivities were yet to come in the holidays just ahead.

Do these memories sound familiar to you, or are yours different?  Did you celebrate Halloween, and if so, how?  I hope this season you will remember and share some of your best Halloween memories.  Feel free to tell us about them here!

50 Comments

  1. Raynard

    It had to be 1968 or 1969.my first Halloween costume was ready for this Julia, Dr killdar. The PAL was decorated like a haunted house. They scared the mess out of you and handed you candy on the way out. Now as I sing that song bye bye miss American pie,throw in Some Simeon and Garfunkel. Oh better not forget Peter, Paul and Mary the only thing I do now concerning Halloween is buying candy 50% off the day after and watching Charlie Brown’s special. Lol be blessed

    • Raynard, the mention of Dr. Kildare brings back SO MANY memories! My parents watched that show and I can still remember the young Richard Chamberlain and the dramatic theme music. We had a reproduction of some classic painting hanging in our hallway, of an old city square somewhere with large ornate buildings – my preschool brother used to point at it and tell his friends “that’s where Dr. Kildare lives.” 🙂 Do you remember Ben Casey too? I STILL listen to Simon and Garfunkel all the time and I honestly think “Sounds of Silence” is THE song of not just the 60’s, but the entire century!! I buy discounted Halloween candy now and then, especially if it’s chocolate. My favorite part of the Great Pumpkin show is when Snoopy ends up prowling around the French countryside in World War II. Thanks for the memories! 🙂

  2. Thank you for acknowledging individual memories may differ. For me, my place in the birth order of siblings is a factor. Also, at a very young age, I began to study the history of the Catholic observance of “All Hallows Eve”. Candy? Not so much . . . Creepy? Plenty of that!

    • Eric, I do know that my happy memories of trick-or-treating include Carla and Al, but I can never remember you going with us. I do remember your reciting the story behind an old black-and-white photo of you at Halloween with a group of costumed friends, and your recounting of the various difficulties you were facing (including your hot dog that wouldn’t stay on the end of the skewer for roasting) seemed hilarious to us, but not to you. I’m happy to have been a “middle child.” 🙂

      • I suppose all of us can look at “cute” photos, and recall some bittersweet memories. The night of the fallen hotdog, my folks dressed me in a bed sheet and a devil mask, complete with small horns, out of the upper forehead. Misery. Then, comforting relief, as my daddy carried me on his shoulders to our home. He spoke with a mixture of excitement and consolation: “Christmas is just around the corner!” I was four-and-a-half.

        • I can recall to this day that horrible mask in the picture, and being amazed that was really you behind it. Your description of the vulnerable child underneath was the exact opposite of the leering face in the photo. If it had not been for the pitiful little hotdog at the very bottom of a long skewer you were holding, I would have thought you must have been confused about which one was you!

      • P. S. — Eric, do you recognize Drew’s “wolf man” feet? You and Sherry gave him those “bear foot” house slippers which were a great favorite of his!

      • I do not remember Mom and Dad trick-or -treating with us as much as Eric directing us…Not that we went very far! Early on Dad use to dress up in a VERY scary costume and greet the Trick-or-treaters, many of whom were too afraid to approach him…even if they knew him!

        • I do remember Daddy wearing a scary skeleton costume (I think) to hand out candy one year while we still lived in Edgemoor. And yes, some of the kids who knew him and us were still afraid of him! He could draw and paint so well, he must have made pretty authentic-looking skull face on his mask. He was channeling the Phantom long before the musical was ever written! 🙂

  3. Ann

    What a happy picture!

    After a night of trick or treating, the Most important discussion was on Who gave out the best candy or treat?! What fun

    PS..I was usually a princess😊

    • Yes, we always had to give an unofficial award for “best candy or treat” too! Usually it went to one of those homes that went “all out” and gave out little treat bags full of various types of candy. When I was a kid, we used to get fruit, too. Sometimes apples (with the urban legend that you had to watch out for razor blades in them!) I was never, ever a princess, unless maybe when I was too young to remember it.

  4. Bobby

    We didn’t go Trick or Treating, since walking a mile to visit 3 or 4 neighbors would have been a bit much, but we did bob for apples, try to get a bite of an apple hanging on a string, and played other games with a harvest theme. Of course we had a Jack-o-lantern which became pumpkin pie shortly thereafter. Dress up was done at school with our classmates. I remember some very inventive costumes, few of which were store bought. Fun memories.

    • Yes, trick-or-treating was probably an invention of urban or suburban kids. I remember when our kids were young and we lived on base in Hawaii, the homes were so close together that you could cover a lot of ground very quickly. I have so many happy memories of holiday celebrations at school. Little things were very special in those days before color TV, video movies and games, and nonstop activities. I’m glad I grew up during those decades.

  5. MaryAnn

    Oh! MY! How cute & beautiful are these boys!!!

    • Thanks, Mary Ann. They were a handful at that age, but lots of fun.

  6. Rene

    A man who worked for Frito-Lay lived in our neighborhood and used to give out small bags of Fritos, back when chips were a treat, too. As much as we loved candy, we always made sure to go to the Frito house.

    • Yes, that would have been a great favorite with us, too. I still love Fritos and for me, they are still a special treat that I reserve for just occasional eating. But I think I would prefer them to candy.

  7. Thank you for empathizing with “the little devil”. Yes! I immediately noticed the clawed slippers, but associated it with the book, “Where the Wild Things Are”. Speaking of Drew, can you regale us with the story of your friends, the Horstmans?

    • Eric, I have no memory of any story about them – is this something Drew remembered from Ohio?

  8. Ryan

    I love this photo of my sweet little cousins!

    • Thank you Ryan! I hope that you and your family have a lot of fun on Halloween!

  9. Sheila

    What appropriate quotes you have included today. The photo of Drew and Matt is just so sweet. I loved the memories of long ago Halloweens that have been recalled here. We are at Willow Tree. It’s a fun time here with a pumpkin carving contest, best costume contest, decorated sites, trick or treating and camp fires everywhere! We’ll be enjoying Brunswick Stew shortly. We’re all grown up and still having fun. 🙂

    • Sounds wonderful! Eat some candy corn for me (it’s my favorite non-chocolate candy)! So glad you are having a fun and festive weekend.

  10. Michael

    Dr. Ben Casey. Was that James Brolin as young assistant? Of course I don’t remember. Whatever happened to Richard Chamberlin. He was great in the Thorn birds and Shogun.

    • I don’t know who all was on the show, Mike. All I remember is the very beginning part with the chalkboard symbol and voice saying “Man, woman, birth, death, infinity.” I have remembered that part verbatim all these years even though the show ended in early 1966. Richard Chamberlain is still around. He lived in Hawaii for years, and while we lived there I knew someone who was friends with one of his employees. She told me that he was gay and it wasn’t hard to believe, although he did not out himself until many years after we had moved away. My friend had been to his house, and she said it was pretty fabulous.

  11. loolamay

    I’m sad that Dad has such bad memories of Halloween. I remember that picture, too. He made it fun for enough Ryan and me – I have good memories. Mostly of pumpkin carving and Mom sewing costumes. 🙂

    • I feel sad about that too. The tendency toward melancholia runs strongly in our family, but some of us fan the embers, staring at them in fascination, and others of us frantically stomp around trying to extinguish every spark. In my mind, if this blog was moderated by your father, it would be titled “Describe Despair.” If it was moderated by my father, it might be “Debate Despair” and if it was moderated by Jeff or my mother (AS IF!) it would be called “Deny Despair” a.k.a “DESPAIR? Oh, Fiddlesticks – get out and rake some leaves.” (I spoke to Mama yesterday and she is already planning the holiday raking!) Thanks for being here, Loolamay. You always have interesting things to say. Love to you and your guys.

  12. Becky S.

    What a great picture Julia. I love Matt’s laugh! When I can look at a still photo and see motion, I’m instantly moved myself. Halloween has mixed memories with me and my childhood, but I’m very greatful to Glenn for helping me see the child in us that appreciates such a holiday. Leaving the confines of “maturity” and embracing the silly is definatly a gift I rarely allow myself to take. Micheala has also been a part of helping me enjoy the festivities. For some reason having a child in your 30’s was so shocking, I stopped worrying about so much and allowed myself to live, and be free. When else can we run around the neighborhood expect candy, and paint our faces while wearing ridiculous outfits that may or may not make sense. Fun tiimes and great memories are treasure. If this is true, I’m as rich as I allow myself. Love you guys so much, and pray always for you!

    • Becky, I’m so glad Glenn has given you that gift. I still laugh to recall his antics when I brought out my Mom’s old mink stole and Glenn was posing, wearing it and my hat, for a “pimp” photo with all the ladies. I PROMISE that photo will not show up here without your permission — in other words, NEVER :-). Thanks so much for being here, and especially for the prayers. Love to you all.

  13. Michael

    You have a great memory. I don’t remember the chalkboard.

    • Most of what I learned at that age, I learned off chalkboards! Seriously, the combination of the abstract symbols with the truly immense concepts made quite an impression on me, especially this whole idea of “infinity” which they correctly sequenced as coming right after death.

  14. Halloween is something that has fascinated ever since I heard about it for the first time. I can imagine how thrilled and scared the children would be. But as we grow up we lose interest in such things – how sad! I love the way Halloween brings out the creativity in all age groups.

    • Yes, the creativity is the best part of it. No other holiday is built so entirely on make-believe and imagination. It is sad that we lose so much of that when we get older. Those of us who work with children in any role are lucky to have them to help keep us young!

  15. I have a hard time remembering Halloween before the age of 7 or 8, I think there were years we didn’t go out. We don’t have a single picture either, drags. I do remember one year, maybe I was 10 or 11, sneaking a extra treat out of my plastic orange pumpkin (we were only allowed one thing per day) and I pulled out a spacer I had for a molar that got kicked out in some horse play with my brother. I ran to my dad thinking there was something in my candy, ooooops caught! LOL

    Super cute photo of your guys Julia! Love the giant smile on Matt and Drew’s big bear feet. I bet you were laughing like crazy.

    • How good you must have been to limit to one treat per day! I think my whole stash only lasted a few days, I would eat myself into sugar shock and don’t remember my parents putting any restrictions on us except my mother making me eat disgusting vegetables etc. whether I wanted to or not. SOOOOO BUSTED with the spacer! You should have chewed on the other side!!

      Matt laughed pretty much through his whole infancy except for a very brief period after his first open heart surgery when he would not smile for what felt like the longest time (he had his first birthday in the cardiac ICU). The surgeries were much tougher in those days but within a couple of weeks he had bounced back, literally and figuratively, and this expression was his typical face for most of his baby days, and almost as often in childhood. YES we laughed a lot!

      • I don’t think it was our idea to limit the treats 😉 Sounds like a Halloween dream at your house. No lie, I think our candy almost lasted until the next Halloween. That’s probably why that toffee was hard, LOL

        Dear Matt, such a little man to be so brave, my gosh! Only a year old and having to go thru that. You and Jeff must have been scared out of your minds. I’ve watched the odd interview with juvenile patients and they always seem wise beyond their years. Seems to make them grow up fast. Did you find this too?

        • Yes, Halloween was second only to Christmas in excitement, especially for a sweet tooth such as I was and still am!

          Matt’s first open heart surgery was definitely the scariest. It was much harder in those days (open heart surgery has come a LONG way just in Matt’s lifetime) and he only weighed 18 pounds when he had it. He had to be strapped down with all sorts of tubes coming out him for 5 days. It was torment not to be able to hold him and comfort him. They day they released him from the cardiac ICU and I carried him to his room the nurses said I was “floating” down the hall I was so happy! We had very nearly lost Matt soon after that surgery; he went into junctional tachycardia and nothing the doctors did seemed to bring him out of it. His heart rate was seemingly stuck at 180. It’s so frightening when they say “we have done everything we can do, we will just have to hope he comes out of it on his own.” Which he did, but that was a harrowing night. Jeff and I had to go back to the Ronald McDonald house across the street, because the ICU did not allow overnight visitors.They had a phone there for parents to call (no cell phones in those days) and I called every hour to see where his heart rate was, and at 5:00 a.m. the nurse told me “Honey, you can go to sleep now; his heartbeat is finally slowing down and he is going to pull through.”

          His next heart surgeries have gotten progressively easier, mostly because of the advances in surgical options and techniques since then. Although they have consistently warned us that this 5th one (which will sometime in early 2014) will be very risky, in part because replacing a bioprosthetic tricuspid valve is inherently difficult, but also because of all the complications that go along with a sternum and heart that have been cut open so many times

          I do think that Matt is wiser for all he has been through, though his autism often obscures that for those who don’t know him well. He definitely seems to enjoy life more than most people I know. He was so active after his heart was fixed that people called him “Taz” (after the cartoon Tasmanian Devil). I used to joke that Matt was thinking “you people just don’t know how to appreciate normal oxygen levels.” 🙂

          • Yes, ‘harrowing’, is a good word. I can’t even imagine, oh man. Matt’s a walking, smiling, singing miracle! Thank you for sharing with me Julia. I bet other parents going thru the same thing would love to hear your story and know first hand that Matt came thru what their little one might be facing.

            I’m so glad Matt is enjoying life and hope with all my heart for his next challenge to be a stepping stone to his future. I should live with such gusto! Taking deep breaths in his honour, mmmmmm, la vie est belle!

            • Thanks! Matt’s pediatric cardiologist here in DC recently took some photos of him (including one in surfer gear) to show at a conference, to encourage parents that their young children born with serious heart defects could go on to live happy and full lives. Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

  16. Raynard

    I remember Ben Casey. Watched Dr Kildare and jumped out out my seat when I seen a young girl smoking in the hospital next to a oxygen tank.never got into I Spy or man from UNCLE but route 66 was OK.I was watching Rin Tin Tin yesterday on YouTube,up there was lassie.

    • How funny! I bet not one viewer in ten would have made that connection – was that just before the great “hospital fire” episode? (Just kidding!) I don’t remember watching Rin Tin Tin, but I do remember Lassie. My favorite spy show, hands down, was Mission Impossible. I would love to watch the re-runs of that some day. I saw the first Tom Cruise movie but it just didn’t have the same appeal. This blog entry will self destruct in 10 seconds.

  17. Carlyle

    I must confess, even at this late date. I probably miss the opportunity to assume some other-worldly character for that very special celebration. Happily, I was able to continue the charade in the early years of some of my grandchildren. I still have a couple of Phantom masks lying on the closet shelf. Just in case. 🙂

    • Daddy, I am glad to know that some part of you still enjoys theatrics; I guess it’s in your blood. I was thinking just today that not many people could claim, as your four children can, to have a Daddy who was a cross between Fred Rogers and the Phantom of the Opera…with maybe a little Paladin and Don Quixote thrown in! 🙂

      • The first comment in this string mentions TV doctors. Julia touches on a serious aspect as she describes the chalk symbols on the BLACKBOARD (chalkboards were green, and replaced the former – I remember ones made of real slate!) drawn by the curly-headed “Dr. Zorba”. (This is along about comment 24 or 25.) At comment 30, it is TV doctors again; as well as at comment number 40. Ben Casey was so popular, there was a “pop” song on the radio: “Hey, Ben Casey, can you mend a broken heart? . . . You can mend broken bones, and take out kidney stones . . . Just put me on the table, and take good care of me. . .”

        • OK, blackboard. These sorts of distinctions (as with graveyards and cemeteries, in a different post) never seem to stick with me. I don’t remember the Ben Casey song, but I do remember that, with the possible exception of cops and detectives (and in early childhood, cowboys), doctors seemed to show up on TV far more often than they did in real life.

      • Do I stare at the embers, in fascination? Definitely! “Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December, and each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor. . .” Magnificent!!!

        • Yes, but no more so than my high school classmate’s parody of that poem, in which those lines were rendered “and each separate dying ember wrought a hole upon the floor.” 🙂

        • Anon E. Moose

          Last night, in my dreams, I “stared at embers” regarding Mr. Buchanan. What can you tell me about his family (children’s ages, etc.)?

          • Eric, Larry and Jen have one daughter, Amanda, who is married to Bryan. They have two children, a son and daughter. I want to check with them before I put the kids’ names and ages online, although you may remember Larry having referred to the new granddaughter awhile back in one of his comments – she has the same name as my good friend’s mother, one of only three people I have ever known with that name, and you commented on it yourself in response to Larry. I am probably being overly cautious about publishing the details on their kids, but privacy is such a disappearing act nowadays. That’s why I often edit out last names and use initials. So many “security questions” online have to do with family names. Jeff and I just had our first experience with credit card fraud, thankfully caught by a vigilant employee before any real damage was done, but with so many data breaches I try to be careful. Thanks for caring.

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