That grouchy old lady would be me. Bah. Humbug. Or whatever is the Halloween equivalent.
When I was young my mother would buy a pumpkin along with the groceries. The night before Halloween we would spread out newspapers on the sink, clean out the pumpkin and create a jolly jack-o-lantern. We would put it in our window with a candle burning inside as our sole decoration.
My sister and I would assemble costumes from our closets - and those of our parents. We were gypsies, grownup ladies, pirates with homemade eye-patches and backward scarves, hobos with faces blackened with burnt corks. No dismembered body parts were involved. The holiday was a favorite of mine, even before getting the candy.
When my children were young, it was the same. We assembled costumes from around the house or what I could sew together with a simple needle and thread. One of my favorites was when my daughter Zoe was a tube of toothpaste, inspired by a white plastic flower pot with ridges that reminded her of a toothpaste cap. We used an old white sheet and she cut out red and blue cardboard letters to spell Crest. The collar was cardboard, too, and yes, I admit, we did buy the cardboard especially for the occasion.
Carving pumpkins was always a fun ritual and I'd pick out two fat ones for the kids to carve. During one domestic phase I even roasted the seeds. A neighbor used to assemble a really scary haunted house. The trick-or-treaters loved to walk through the flashing lights while viewing creepy posters. The mom, dressed in black and wielding a whip, would accompany the children through. She told me it was a bit surprising how many of the dads offered to let her whip them.
We did buy accessories through the years - a witch hat purchased when Zoe was 3 comes to mind. I also admit that once in a moment of weakness a few years ago I bought a little witch hat for my miniature American Eskimo, Mickey. She always loved the trick-or-treaters who came to our house and they loved petting her, so I had the idea that when we answered the door my cute little dog would be wearing a cute little witch hat. Wrong! My cute little dog showed a surprising amount of dog pride and refused to have anything to do with the hat. I gave the hat away to another owner of a cute little dog. And I resolved never again to be swayed by the massive dog/Halloween industry.
Now it is an industry, and adult Halloween costumes are as popular as those for children. I can't even begin to picture my parents in costumes. But through the years my husband and I have gone to parties where costumes were required and we managed to come up with something. For the last one, Jim wore a Bill Clinton mask that someone had given as a gag gift and I dressed as Monica Lewinsky. My main memories of the party are how bad I looked in that black wig, and my husband going around saying, "I did not have sex with that woman." And how cute my friend Rosemary looked dressed as a gypsy, a costume probably assembled from her closet. I should have stuck to the old rules.
But the most shocking thing to me is the gory decorations that are cropping up in some of my neighbors' yards. Giant spider webs I can understand. But skulls on spikes a la "Apocalypse Now"? At the homes of preschoolers? Are our kids becoming desensitized or are they just plagued by nightmares?
Halloween is the second biggest holiday, consumer-spending wise. Considering the competition - Easter, Fourth of July, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day - maybe this isn't too alarming. I guess it's good for the economy if people are spending money so I shouldn't complain. Maybe I'll cheer up when I start eating my leftover candy.
-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.