My parents thought they could not have children. I probably thought I could not have parents, decently cared for though I was in my state-run orphanage.
When they adopted me, all their pent-up parental love came into full bloom.
One of the ways they showed this, of course, was by pulling out all the stops to celebrate holidays.
Before Martha Stewart was Martha Stewart, my mother created this:
A mighty pumpkin head with hair made of purple grapes, a boisterous carved grin, and cauliflower ears (held on with toothpicks). It had green bean eyebrows. It was a marvel. I remember the scent of the candle burning in its squash interior, and I remember its nearly Renaissance level of color and complexity.
She’d be happy to know she gave me a lifetime memory with that icon of a rich harvest.
My father gave me a lasting memory, too. A decorated Marine officer and veteran of the WWII Pacific theater, he protected us as we trick-or-treated. I could not know then just how well-protected that means we were, the boys and girls of our modest street.
He walked with us, shining a flashlight where we were going to step. As we approached our neighbors’ doors, he stood back, leaving us the raw, thrilling adventure of knocking, waiting for an answer, and holding out our bags for candy.
Halloween is one of those childish things slowly taken over by us big folks. I’d like to give it back to children.
Somewhere along the line it became a reason to have a party: an adult party, with adult beverages and adult ensembles, an autumnal answer to Mardi Gras.
It became a reason to decorate, and by decorate I mean to buy a ton of imported plastic and polyester Grim Reapers, spiders, skeletons, bats, zombies, skulls, bloody hands, witches, snakes, Frankenstein monsters, mummies, vampires, cat-eye window clings, and tombstones, and to top it all off with masses of spiderwebs and orange LED lights that blink. And a motion-sensor activated scream machine.
OK, if I were a 6-year-old with the soul of a poet, this would not really do me good. (Nightmares.) It would scare me, and as a 60-year-old who likes sane, pretty, sustainably-made fair trade sourced locally grown whatnots, it scares me in a different way.
I cannot single-handedly change my culture, but this is my plan for Halloween. I’m going to celebrate it with fruit and vegetable decorations. And candy, probably both chocolate and something more. That’s it. Because I want to, and because the ghoulishness of the consumerist Halloween leaves a weird taste in my mouth, unlike good candy.