No Longer Haunted by Halloween

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Taryn and her husband, Sebastian, still get a kick out of Halloween

By Kathy P. Behan

I have always hated Halloween. I have lots of good reasons to feel this way. For starters, I was always really tall for my age and I’d go trick-or-treating with Kathy, my best friend, and my older sister, Mona. But when I got to be about 9, people would give them candy and before I could get any, they’d say, “You’re too old!” and slam the door in my face. Unfortunately, this happened way too often. I’d be left on the doorstep candy-less and feeling humiliated.

Then there was the year Gloria coerced us into trick-or-treating with her. By this time, my older sister was out with her friends, and Kathy decided it would be more fun if we joined Gloria and her group. We soon learned that these girls were more into tricks than treats.

Three houses into the night, we came upon one that looked deserted. Gloria took out a can of shaving cream and began squirting the front door. She then took an egg out of her side pocket and threw it against a window. My friend and I watched all this in horrified silence. The other girls were laughing and pardon the pun, egging Gloria on. We continued to other houses gathering candy or if the house looked unoccupied, Gloria and her crew would “cream it.”

Before long, we stopped at one dark house where Gloria, no longer content with my watching the proceedings, began to goad me into being a trick participant. I wish I could report that I stood up to the taunting, but instead, I caved into the pressure.

After initially holding out, I began artfully outlining the front door in shaving cream. Suddenly it opened and an old woman appeared. “Who made this mess?” she angrily demanded.

Without hesitation, Gloria pointed my way. What could I say? There I was with the shaving cream in my hand, a blush of shame spreading across my face. After cleaning the door and enduring a torrent of the woman’s angry reprimands, I walked home alone. I was kept company though by memories of Gloria’s insults, the old woman’s complaints and most hurtfully, by my own cowardice.

Looking back, some of my Halloween mishaps were more comical than sinister. Like the time I was dressed up as a witch, complete with long black plastic nails. At one house, we had to pick our candy out of a bowl. In the process I lost a bunch of my nails. As I was trying to retrieve them, the bowl’s owner accused me of trying to take more than my fair share of candy, and unceremoniously, shoved me out of her house. Or there was the time that we were held captive in an elderly couple’s home until we correctly performed an Irish jig.

As if being refused candy and getting into trouble with oldsters wasn’t enough to dampen my enthusiasm for Halloween, being mugged when I was 11 (it’s a long story. I’ll tell you about it sometime) squashed it completely.

Because of my children, up until now, I’ve tried to keep my tawdry Halloween past a secret. After all, they so enjoy every aspect of this holiday. They happily decide what they’ll be, help with all the preparations, and count the days until they’re dressed up and collecting candy.

My favorite one so far was when we brought the kids to California and spent it trick-or-treating with Mona and her family in an exceptionally theme-inspired neighborhood. The residents tried to outdo each other creating steaming witches’ caldrons and makeshift graveyards on their lawns. There was even one house where you had to collect your candy from Dracula while he lay in a coffin.

Over the years, I’ve not only enjoyed trick-or-treating with my kids but also the traditions we’ve developed around Halloween. For instance, we have a pumpkin-carving contest and vote for the best one. Every year my husband makes a scary face, I make a cute one and the kids often base theirs on cartoon characters or super heroes. And no matter where the children are at the beginning of the evening, we all meet up at a certain time to walk around our own neighborhood together.

Thanks to my children, Halloween, for me, has lost a lot of its former sting. I’ve found this to be an interesting aspect of parenthood. Old likes and dislikes take on a different spin because you’re experiencing them from a new perspective – that of your children’s.

So no, Halloween will never be a favorite holiday of mine, but my kids certainly make it bearable, and even fun.

Kathy P. Behan, a mother of three, is a nationally published freelance writer specializing in family and health issues.

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