Halloween was my favorite holiday. I loved decorating the house. I loved dressing up as a witch, my tradition. I loved the smell of the candles singing the insides of the carved pumpkins – two of them, one for little Sarah and one for littler Hannah. I loved going out with my daughters for trick or treat, marching along behind them down our midwestern, Dick & Jane streets of brick and stone houses with slate roofs, smoke in the air, leaves crunching, a cold breeze, black night, candlelight faces glowing on stone steps. We knew it was TIME when we heard the music blaring from the neighbor down and around the corner, who went all out every year; classic horror movie organ music booming from giant speakers in upstairs windows: “DUMMMMMMM… DUM DUM DUM DUMMMM!!!” and you knew that Count Dracula was lurking in the bushes, waiting to sweep out and make a dramatic run at you when you ventured up the walkway; delicious terror. Farther down was the other neighbor who always set out a big table in the middle of the street, and manned a giant vat of hot cider that he ladled out for everyone. It was “The Wizard of Oz,” “It’s A Wonderful Life,” Garrison Keillor’s Lake Woebegone, and “Miracle on 34th Street” all rolled into one.
One year we threw a Halloween party for the neighborhood kids – I made homemade donuts (awful), we got dry ice and put it in a big pot; we had crisp apples and candy corn and cider from the apple farm out east. A fire in the fireplace. And for two days prior, the girls and I brainstormed and worked together to make our home into a haunted house. Sarah spent an hour coloring a fantastic “Welcam to the Hontid Hows” sign. It was perfect, except for one little hitch that happened at the beginning of the evening…
After helping my daughters with their costumes, I donned my customary black witch robes, my burgundy silk rope with the cluster of jingling bells, my waist-length, shredded black hair, and my pointed black hat – but this year in honor of the party I decided to go it one better; I added green face paint, and was I blacking out one of my teeth when my four-year-old came to the bathroom door.
In full character, I turned to her slowly, and regarded her evilly. Craggy-like, I said, “Hello, my pretty…”
Her eyes bulged. Then she screamed. And then she ran down the stairs.
I hiked up my robes and hurried after her, calling her name.
She was at the front door, crying hysterically, struggling with the latch. She turned again to look at me; she wailed. She yanked open the door and flew down the steps.
I chased her down the street, a green-faced black-haired witch with arms outstretched, reaching for the little girl with the golden curls who was running for her life as fast as she could, shrieking in terror – only not the good way like when Count Dracula came at her.
I could have done that better.
But I miss that night, those days, the expectation, the innocence. I miss you, my beautiful daughters.