(5 minute read)
Today is Halloween! For many years in my childhood that meant homemade costumes for the Happy Valley School parade, carving jack-o-lanterns, and trick-or-treating for candy. Then with our children it was all about finding the right costume for each one, decorating the house, trick-or-treating and candy sorting and trading at the end of the night. These days I still buy candy for trick-or-treaters who would have to be very brave to come down our long gravel driveway. A wreath with a “Happy Halloween” sign in the center hangs on our front door, and a skeleton playing the banjo sits on the porch swing next to two faceless pumpkins. That is it outside for decorations, a far cry from the fright fest that used to take place each Halloween in our front yard.
We have as many black plastic bins of spooky decorations as we do green and red bins of Christmas lights and decor down in our basement. We have tombstones, skulls, bones, bats, rats, spiders, webs, witches, chains, zombie body parts, glow-in-the-dark eyes that stick into the bushes and trees. There is the Grim Reaper that stands eight feet tall once assembled, ghosts that require annual battery replacement along with the dozen motion detected skulls on spikes that rattle, the pirate skeleton for the front door with bendable fingers, the fog machine, the black lights, creepy music to blast out of the windows and a homemade coffin.
We were living in Texas when the real enthusiasm for Halloween decorating kicked in. Kevin and our four kids looked forward to the day each October when all of the bins were brought out and the transformation of our front yard took place. Many neighbors sported the spooky stuff, and it was a popular subdivision for trick-or-treaters. On our street there was stiff competition from a family with three sons. They had the normal stuff (webs, spiders, ghosts in the trees) but then they took it up a notch. The mom sat out front dressed up as a scary witch cackling as she stirred a large cauldron with a broom stick. Two of her sons stumbled around the yard made up like dead zombies. The oldest son ran around with a chainsaw, a real chainsaw (with the chain removed of course, I hope). He kept revving it as the trick-or-treating children passed by, too afraid to approach the house for candy. They definitely were the scariest (freakiest) house on the block the night of Halloween.
But I take pride in our house being spooky, fun, and festive, both at night and during the day for most of October. In fact, in our Texas neighborhood there was a garden of the month awarded to residents, usually recognizing lovely landscaping. We won for October! We got to display the award sign in our yard for weeks and received a $100 gift certificate to the Home Improvement store (which we probably used for more yard decorations).
A few years later, we moved to Connecticut. When October rolled around, we were treated to the most beautiful fall foliage. There is nothing like the orange, red, yellow and brown leaf show that we experienced that first year. The kids were a little older, Kevin was busy and commuting each day, and I was unsure what our new neighbors would think about our over-the-top Halloween decorations. So all of the black plastic bins stayed tucked away in the basement. The kids were disappointed but did not fuss until breakfast one morning in October before heading off to school. They sadly reminisced about our Texas Halloween memories. After they caught the bus to school I sat in the empty quiet house and felt bad. Really bad. I cleaned up the kitchen, I kept feeling bad. I folded clean laundry remembering those fun times, and felt bad. Then I got a wild hair. Deciding to do something about it by myself, I went down into the basement and hauled several black plastic bins up the stairs and outside. It did not take me long to scatter skeleton bones around the flower bed in front of our pristine New England home. I set out tombstones, hung some ghosts, and lined the stone wall with skulls. I looked at my work with satisfaction that while it was not even close to the spectacle we created in Texas it would be appreciated for effort and at least make the family smile.
As the day went on and the time of the school bus arrival grew closer, I got another idea. I went into our costume bins and found the overly large scary troll mask. I put on overalls, a flannel shirt, gardening gloves and Kevin’s big boots. Sometimes in our Texas Halloween scheme we set out the troll stuffed with paper and sat him on a bench. So in Connecticut on this beautiful October day, I sat out on the bench in full costume waiting for the bus to arrive. My timing was such that I was there for a few minutes of cars passing by and my anticipation growing hearing my own breathing inside of the cumbersome troll mask. I sat completely still watching them through the small eye openings. As each one of my kids exited the school bus they were all smiles when they saw the decorated front yard. They skipped towards the front door and glanced my direction. Jack did a double take, stopped and kind of tilted his head and squinted his eyes. He walked closer to me slowly. When he was within arms reach I jumped up and roared. I got him. We both laughed hard. The excitement on their faces that afternoon made all my efforts worth it. Plus I kind of had some fun myself getting into the spirit of Halloween.
*If you go back to a blog post on Halloween of 2018 you’ll find a scary movie trailer I made. (Friday Film Days in the Menu). BEWARE, it is frightening!
Awesome Carolyn. And by the way, our Southlake Halloween decorations gift card was for $500, not $100 🙂
Miss those days! Makes me laugh….. had my own scare at the Glen Allen Freudenthal house one Halloween several years ago! 🤣🤣🤣
Finally got the time to enjoy this! What a fun story. Have fun to know these things after all these years have passed. Thank you so much for sharing. We always reminisce about when the kids were little for Halloween festivities and miss those days greatly as well.