Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Wednesday is Halloween, as if you didn’t know.
Americans go crazy celebrating Halloween. According to The Atlantic online magazine, in 2011 we spent roughly $6 billion on the holiday. That’s a lot of Tootsie Rolls. We don’t just buy candy, of course; we splurge on costumes, decorations and parties. The pie sliced like this: 36 percent is spent on costumes, 28 percent on decorations, 31 percent on candy and 4 percent on cards. Only Christmas makes us open our wallets more.
Know how much I spent on Halloween last year? Not one dime. And nobody TP’d our front yard or soaped our windows. We used to buy candy for the kiddies, but the last two years we had not one trick-or-treater. None! That’s because, in our little town, the churches and gas stations offer safe, fun Halloween events. (Virtually all small town social activity revolves around churches and gas stations. And the post office, which seems to be a hot spot for romance.)
Thus, Widdle and I just sit on the porch and wave at all the little superheroes, princesses and zombies who hurry by. Whole herds of ‘em are driven in from surrounding rural areas. It’s a lot of fun, and the dog doesn’t go mad from all the munchkins banging on the door.
As a child, Halloween was exciting at our house. When we came back from trick-or-treating, Dad always built a bonfire and roasted hotdogs on metal coat hangers. By that time, we kids were certifiably insane from gorging on Snickers, Three Musketeers, Reese Cups and Whoppers. (This was years before fun-sized treats.) We’d screech and chase each other around. Why we didn’t all topple into the fire I’ll never know.
My siblings and I wore home-made costumes, decked out as the usual suspects: Witch, hobo, fairy, cat, bee, ghost. Not long ago I ran across a tattered photo of my beloved brother, T-Bob, dressed as Strom Thurmond. His reddish hair was slicked back and he wore a suit with a wide tie and gleaming wingtips. It occurred to me, How did a 10-year-old from backwoods North Carolina know about legendary South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond?
So I called and asked him.
“I wasn’t Strom Thurmond,” he replied instantly. “I was Red Skelton.” Oops.
I stopped trick-or-treating at 11, or was it 12? Whatever, I was small for my age. And that was that, except for a few times in college. One year I decided to be Madonna. Don’t ask me why a sensible 21-year-old English major would put on a cone bra and fishnets to go join the drunks at Bennigan’s, but I did.
Another time I dressed up as Princess Leia from Star Wars. So did 15 other women at the frat party I attended. (I surely took the prize for looking ridiculous. Giant ear buns flatter no-one.)
The last time I dressed up for Halloween I went the lazy route: I borrowed my husband’s tool belt, put on painter’s pants, a pair of hiking boots and a baseball cap and went as a carpenter. Widdle went as a blind referee (which would have been even funnier this year.)
If I ever dress up again, I want to be Lizzie Borden. I’d wear a dowdy wig, velvet choker and an old-fashioned dress splashed with red food coloring. And I’d carry a hatchet. We’ve visited the Borden house in Fall River, Mass., and I think I could pull it off.
Only problem is, Widdle doesn’t trust me with sharp objects. Go figure.
Julie R. Smith, who hopes nobody dresses up as Honey Boo Boo, can be reached at email@example.com.
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