**Disclaimer: I was feeling pretty nostalgic about Halloween this evening and I sat down and just started typing. I rarely do that. Usually there is a whole blogpost in my head before I even pull up this site, but this one...this one is purely for me.
I remember alot of Halloweens growing up. Probably one of my first memories is when I got my 1st store bought costume. I think I was 3. We went to the Big B store on the corner of Sparkman and Jordan Lane and bought a Mickey Mouse costume. What I remember about it was this -- it was cheap. The mask was uncomfortable plastic that was so thin and stiff, you could probably cut yourself on it. The "costume" was also plastic and you stepped into it and it tied in the back like a hospital gown. I remember that the mask cracked before the night was over and that a couple of the ties broke when we put it on. Maybe that is why I didn't have another store bought costume until I was 14 and needed something impressive for a friend's Halloween party. One year I wore a purple sweat suit and painted my face purple -- I was The Purple People Eater. Another year I wanted to be a ghost, but mom wouldn't let me cut holes in a sheet, so I was some kind of incredibly politically incorrect version of...well, I don't know what I was. I wore a shirt that my grandparents had brought me from the Caribbean, holey jeans, a gardening hat of my mothers, and I carried a coffee can with beans in it like some kind of drum/maracca hybrid. It was horrible -- but I walked around the neighborhood like a panhandling migrant worker asking everyone for candy. One of the most memorable costumes I ever made was when I was about 12. I was a robot. I painted a huge Whirlpool Dryer box with silver paint, as well as a smaller square box that I affixed to the top for the head. I raided my dad's garage and found all sorts of weird looking bulbs, wires, etc to form a face, cut the sleeves off of an old shirt, attached gloves at the ends, stuffed them with newspaper and duct taped them to the sides for arms. The most ingenious thing I did though was to push dozens of Lite Brite pegs through the front of the box, so that when I lit my flashlight on the inside of the box and swung it back and forth, the costume came alive. I did not go trick-or-treating that year -- I went to the Halloween party at our church and won the costume contest. I have been thinking alot about my childhood and how much holidays like Halloween have changed since we were kids. The idea of having "decorations" for Halloween beyond a Jack-O-Lantern or two was ludicrous for our family and our neighborhood. No one had Halloween lights, or stretched fake spiderwebs over their bushes. Occasionally, we might come to a house that had a blacklight in their porch light, or a scarcrow on the porch, and I think that there was one house that had fake ghosts hanging in their trees one year. But for the most part, a grinning Jack-O-Lantern was it (not the elaborate pumpkin sculptures that you see today, but just triangle eyes and nose and a jagged grin). The Jack-O-Lantern went out the night of or the night before Halloween and went into the trash the next day (unless your mom was like mine and made it into pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, or pumpkin muffins).
We have become so commercialized as a society that a simple holiday that used to be comprised of a $5 pumpkin and a homemade costume has become one of $50 kids costumes, $200 inflatable spiders, and month-long celebrations. People rarely have ONE Jack-O-Lantern, but instead they have several -- many of them fake and plugged into the wall. I love Haloween. Fall is one of my most favorite times of the year, and Halloween is consumate "Fall" with pumpkins and apples and red and gold leaves. The crisp Fall air that is cool and dry and the coming of Halloween go hand in hand, and you know that soon after will be Thanksgiving, with turkey, sweet potatoes, family and football, followed closely by the holiday of holidays -- Christmas. I really miss the simplicity of the holidays the way we used to celebrate them -- Halloween was like a warm up of good holidays to come. The candy we collected was an appetizer to the rich foods of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now, people decorate more for Halloween than they do for Christmas and many families never see each other -- even on Thanksgiving. (sigh)