Halloween Nostalgia

by Kathy Coogan

I do not pine for the Halloweens from my youth. Halloween was a fun day, and that was the extent of it: a single day. On Halloween afternoon (or for the more anxious planners amongst us, the afternoon before) we began gathering our costumes for Trick or Treat.

Hobos and gypsies or a few years later, hippies, were assembled from the bags in the basement meant eventually for St. Vincent de Paul or the Salvation Army collection bins. Princesses were few and far between. We had few spangles and fewer tiaras. We were a ragtag bunch out to do innocent mischief with bars of soap and t.p.; neighborhood kids emboldened by a sugar high.

Many years later, I married and gave birth to a daughter on October 18 and the Halloween-themed baby gifts came rolling in. She was even blessed with a holiday-appropriate nickname. My little cutie-patootie temporarily became Punkin’! As the years passed, many, many birthday party themes fell back on Halloween. The best, (you could ask her) the absolutely, to this day, unrivalled best was her 12th.

Each of the six girl guests, was given a brown grocery bag. On the outside was written the name of a character. Inside was EVERYTHING she would need to become that character. I was very thorough! My favorite was the “geisha” complete with white makeup and black eyeliner from my Cher-days, and enough material to make a kimono (formerly a lovely silken paisley bathrobe) and obi (a turquoise table runner wrapped around a throw pillow).

These girls, still young enough to play dress-up but on the cusp of growing up, pulled out all the stops, exchanging what-ifs and how-to’s galore. “What if you used this brown eye-liner to make wrinkles,” the geisha said to the old crone.

Recently I ran into one of these girls. She had her own daughter and son tucked in the grocery cart. The subject of Halloween costumes came up since jack-o-lantern images were all around us. “I still remember that birthday party where we all made our own costumes from what was in the bags. It was the best party ever!” I modestly had to agree.

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