Somebody asked on Twitter the other day "When did Halloween get to be about adults?" Or maybe that was on some TV show. Either way, the question stuck with me.
I am a huge fan of Halloween. I love the kiddy aspect of it (though I really hope no neighbour kids drop by tomorrow, as I'm not buying any candy and they HATE that). But I also really enjoy the night of bacchanalia. The costumes. The parties. The time of casting off our every day restraints and letting loose for a night (or a weekend, it would seem) to not just our fears but our fantasies.
It's not even that there were no Halloween parties for adults when I was a kid. It just wasn't quite as big a deal. I've generally assumed that part of that was because I was raised in a Christian home, and so making too big a deal about a night dedicated to ghosts and goblins would be inappropriate. But for several years we lived in company housing outside of our small town, and the company put on two parties - an amazing fun fest for the kids, complete with bobbing for apples and crafts and hot dogs and dancing to the never-changed singles on the community hall jukebox.
En masse following the party we'd trick-or-treat through the 15 company houses. And then we'd all pile into as few vehicles as possible - the Herman's van being prized for its spaciousness - and hit the neighbouring farms. People were generous - perhaps it was the time, or perhaps it was that they knew we had few houses to visit, but they would give out full size chocolate bars and cans of pop and my mom made amazing popcorn balls and we cherished the seasonal rockets and tootsie rolls.
And we took such pride in our costumes. Costumes then - and still, in my opinion - only really counted if they were home-made. Being blessed with a creative Mom & big sister, I can remember certain fabulous costumes I still wish I could recreate. Like when I was 7 or 8 and went as Pinocchio, complete with blue velvet shorts held up with embroidered suspenders and a nose made out of conical paper towel roll centres that wilted as the condensation from my breathing built up over the course of the night. And yes, it snowed that year. It wasn't unusual to have snow at Halloween where I grew up, so I wore snow boots with my blue velvet shorts, and rushed between houses and from the car to the doorway. But it was a fabulous costume.
And a few years later, when DJ was too big for such foolishness herself, she made me the most fantastic Pippi Longstocking hair do - thick blonde braids died red, and held straight out with a re-shaped clothes hanger that dug into my head all night. That might have been my last year at those parties. We moved into town shortly after, and town kids didn't have parties like that.
But the counterpoint to the kids party was the adult party. And it surprises me to remember how much fun my parents seemed to have with their costumes. I remember one year when my mom went as - as we called it at the time (Oh how we wouldn't dare now!) - an 'Indian chief'' - with a full rubber mask, her body disguised in a worn wool blanket, with a wide-brimmed felt hat on. She sat quietly in the corner most of the night, and some of the neighbours never did figure out who she was. I think that was the same year Mr. Ens - gruff, strict Mr. Ens, who always slightly scared me - went in drag. With a Mrs. Robinson-esque little black lace dress, shaved stockinged legs, a blonde bob, and a cigarette holder that went for miles. I've only seen pictures of course, and let my imagination run away to fill in the blanks of how chic the party must have been, despite it's location being the same as for the children's party. The same waxed basketball floor to dance on. The same jukebox playing the same songs.
There were a few years, I suppose, when Halloween was irrelevant to me. A a teenager too old to trick or treat and too uncool to be invited to do anything else. And those first couple years at a Christian university, where I'm sure even mentioning that holiday was discouraged.
And then I had little boys. And my own creative fun coming up with their costumes. I still have a couple of them - hoping someday, I suppose, to see them on grandchildren. Or just holding them for posterity. A clown with all the primary colours in every combination of polka dot - white on red. Blue on white. A yellow pom pom atop the hat. And BB2's bunny costume, with it's wiggly tail and green gingham bow tie. Transforming what was Peter Pan one year into a tunic for Frankenstein's monster the next. And most recently BB2 as a teenage Travelocity gnome.
In my 30's Halloween became a big deal again. Fun-loving grad school friends convinced me to dress up and go out with them. We made amazing costumes - I wish I still had my genie outfit - and I was outraged when a store-bought costume won the contest at the bar we went to. It re-connected me to the fun of Halloween. To the importance of escaping once in a while the masks we wear every day and putting on one we normally shy away from. I've dressed up most years since then, and every year I wish we had other reasons to dress up throughout the year.
At some point this fall BB2 asked me to help with his costume again. And I got a little thrill to think of him- adult & living in another town with another woman, paying his own bills-but still including me in one of the traditions we both love. He and his sweetie decided in the end to go another way, but I liked the planning and the plotting for what might have been. And for what might be next year.
I got nostalgic tonight, carving my pumpkin without BB1's artistic influence. Without him here to urge me on to try something I know I've no way of recreating, but am still easily convinced to try. He'll be here tomorrow for a visit and will laugh at what I ended up with and say it's good, and I'll defer and say it's not what I had in mind. And that'll be it.
This year, I'll be home. In my disguise as a responsible citizen, the jack o'lantern on my patio the only hint of who else might live here some other October 31.