By Nancy Julien Kopp
I have a confession to make. I don’t like Halloween, and I never have. Even as a kid in the
suburbs, it was not a big deal for me. It was a day to get through. Oh, I
participated in the school parties, school parade and Trick or Treat time in
the evening, but I never got excited over it like some kids did.
As I got older, I asked myself what was wrong with me. Give me Valentine’s Day or Thanksgiving or Christmas any day. But Halloween? During the forties, we didn’t go to Walmart or Target and buy a costume. First of all, those stores weren’t even born yet. Secondly, my family, like many others, didn’t spend money on things like costumes. No sireee. We raided our closets at home and came up with some kind of costume. We had to be creative.
I can’t tell you how many times I was a gypsy because it was easy to don a full skirt that twirled when I turned round and round, a peasant style blouse and many ropes of beads from my mother’s jewelry box. Sometimes, I added a colorful scarf over my hair before going out to Trick or Treat in our apartment building. We climbed three flights of stairs in one vestibule after another. The building had 62 apartments, and my brothers and I hit nearly every one. We were getting beneficial exercise, but no one realized it..
When we got home, we dumped all our loot into a big blue mixing bowl that Mom had set out for us. No keeping your own candy, for it all went in together. We were never allowed to stuff ourselves with it either. Candy in our house was rationed, a little at a time. Mysteriously, the level of the bowl sank faster than might be expected. I feel pretty sure a couple of adult hands dipped into the bowl when we were asleep or away at school during the day.
My brothers rigged up clown outfits or dressed as a bum, using things from our dad’s closet. Nobody cared if you wore the same costume year after year because we all did it.
But one year, I wore something totally different. My Aunt Vivienne had made her daughter a Martha Washington costume, even including a white cottony wig. The dress was something any girl would have delighted in wearing. My cousin had outgrown it, so I inherited the special outfit. It was in my fifth grade year when I slipped into the dress and wig and set off for school on Halloween morning. I felt pretty nifty. No gypsy girl costume for me this year. But my happiness turned into misery faster than you can say ‘black cat’ when the boys howled at my wig and the girls giggled and pointed. I felt totally humiliated and dreaded walking in the school Halloween parade. I looked different than anyone else, and I guess that was the problem. But at such a young age, I had a hard time dealing with it.
At our school parties, we played the same games year in and year out. One of them was bobbing for apples. The only thing I hated more than Halloween itself was that silly game. The teacher produced a big tub of water and tossed apples into it. They bobbed merrily around. The object was to put your hands behind your back, lean over and grab an apple with your teeth. My face got wet, my long hair trailed in the water and I had a hard time grabbing the apple. I never won and I didn’t care. Even the year I wore the Martha Washington wig, it came up dripping after my unsuccessful try for the apple.
Slide across the years to the time I had small children who needed costumes, marched in school parades and went Trick or Treating. I dreaded the end of October and getting them ready for Halloween. By then, we bought cheap costumes at the store. No more gypsy girl outfits made up at home or bum clothes put together from Daddy’s stuff. Some mothers were creative and made costumes from boxes and other things. Very clever ideas, but I must admit that I didn’t even attempt to come up with anything like that.
Halloween was still a day to get through. And now, when it’s my grandchildren who are dressing up and Trick or Treating, I can enjoy seeing the pictures of them in their costumes. I don’t have to participate because they live in other towns. We don’t decorate the outside of our house for Halloween as so many do now, but I do answer the door many times during the evening of the 31st of October as does my husband. He is always hopeful we have some candy left over, and we usually do. It’s kind of fun to see the neighbor kids all dressed up, but somehow I’m relieved when it’s time to turn off the porch light and I know there are 365 days until Halloween comes again.
Last year, my daughter told me she really didn’t like Halloween and dreaded having to get her kids costumes and all the rest that goes with it. She said, “I didn’t really like it when I was a kid.” Do you suppose it’s genetic?